Monday, July 29, 2013

Ruddy All-Inclusives

The local Spanish press, you may have noticed, takes a great deal of interest in what the foreign press has to say about Mallorca; the British and German press in particular. Typically, the sensationalist is what is picked up and it normally has to do with either Magalluf or Playa de Palma and with drunkenness, violence and all-round bad behaviour. Occasionally, however, there is something else to alert the local press, and an example of this was an article written for "The Sunday Times" last week by Matt Rudd. Its theme: all-inclusives.

Rudd's article was entitled "Escape from All-catraz". The allusion to a prison was a hotel in Can Picafort. It's probably best if the hotel remains unidentified. Rudd spent only fours day there, but in that time managed to spend only eight euros. He had gone outside and bought two gin and tonics.

Writing an article about all-inclusives for "The Sunday Times" requires, as with any newspaper, an understanding of the typical reader, and the typical reader of "The Sunday Times" would not, one imagines, be opting for an all-inclusive. If he or she were, then the paper has been wasting an enormous amount of effort in devoting as much attention as it does to exotic destinations or, in the case of Mallorca, to quaint country settings and the usual gushing drivel that passes for much travel writing.

Rudd isn't your normal travel journalist, though. That's because he is funny, and with all-inclusives, he can be as funny as he wants, because "The Sunday Times" reader will be only too happy to collude in the joke. But the humour, including, as an example, a description of being like a goose on a foie gras farm, doesn't disguise realities. The point about these realities, however, is that we know about them already. Though one would have to assume that the typical reader of "The Sunday Times" doesn't know about them.

In talking with the local press (Matias Valles at the Diario de Mallorca), Rudd highlights these things we know: all-inclusives have become more popular since economic crisis and the fall in the value of sterling; that holidaymakers at all-inclusives hardly ever venture out; that staff in such hotels are not happy because they don't get tips; and that the punters themselves are beginning to become disenchanted because what they see outside (if they go outside) is the consequence of their being in an all-inclusive - places closed down and a loss of character.

These are things that have been known about for ages. When I first started to write regularly all-inclusives (seven years ago), all the above were themes with the exception of the economic crisis and the situation with the pound. This clearly has made all-inclusives that much more attractive, but Rudd, in asking why the holidaymaker appears to have abandoned an adventurous spirit in favour of the all-inclusive, misses the point somewhat. The adventurous spirit disappeared long ago. It existed only when the holidaymaker knew relatively little about where he or she was going. This hasn't been the case for years; the internet has seen to this. Holidaymakers want convenience and a lack of hassle and the all-inclusive is really just a more extreme manifestation of a long-established trend: holidaymakers are, by and large, not adventurous.

Of course, some are, like Matt Rudd and so also like many a reader of "The Sunday Times". Over three years ago, Rudd wrote an article in which he admitted to being a "holiday snob". He didn't really have a lot of time for coastal resort Mallorca at all, referring to the "flabby pink people" to be found in the resorts. Interior Mallorca was where it was at, and for "The Sunday Times", this would be entirely appropriate.

On the one hand, I find myself being defensive about all-inclusives when the rise is taken for the enjoyment of a readership that would never typically be found dead in an all-inclusive. On the other hand, however, Rudd has done a service. He has attacked, belittled and ridiculed all-inclusive, which is representative of so much that is wrong with regional government policy, i.e. giving the hotels all they want and neglecting the alternatives. Rudd is a voice for these alternatives, be they country fincas, villas or, probably even, luxury apartments. The government would be wise to realise that a market which Rudd is addressing doesn't want what he experienced for four days. His article, in a very different way to sensationalist Magalluf articles, should be paid attention to. But of course, it won't be.

Any comments to please.

No comments: