Monday, July 15, 2013

The Damned Lies About All-Inclusives

I know that we should all by now realise that tourism statistics and figures that are thrown out to the media provide no more meaningful a purpose than for the media to be able to fill some space, but bear with me if you will. I know these stats are basically pointless, but their pointlessness doesn't stop them being looked at and questions being asked as to whether they are not just pointless but also wrong and perhaps deliberately wrong.

Last week we were fed a diet of all-inclusive statistics, ones to be regurgitated by the media, reported and otherwise ignored except by some indignant commentators to websites who choose not to query the statistics but to sound off about crap food and drink, low-quality tourists and indulge in the normal sounding-off which accompanies anything AI.

These figures revealed that all-inclusive represents 15% of hotel overnight stays, this 15% being equivalent to more than eight million overnight stays. They also revealed that there are 165 hotels offering AI. So far, so utterly uninteresting. However, my discrepancy antennae were alerted to the 15% percentage. More than eight million overnight stays out of a total of 42,524,369 do not equate to 15%. They are some four percentage points higher. So, this was the first thing that was wrong. Then there was the 42 million figure.

The Balearics tourism ministry very kindly publishes spreadsheets on its website which give all manner of information about the number of hotels that are open in any given month, about the number of hotel places and about the number of overnight stays. The 42 million was not 42 million. It was 37,408,218. More than eight million, as a percentage, is not 15%, not 19% but around 21.5%.

There was then something about these figures in last week's report that didn't suggest a discrepancy but rather bafflement. The figures were for 2010. If so, why were they being reported now? Oh, because, so we were led to believe, this was the last time that the tourism ministry did a survey. Really? And what survey was this exactly?

Among the spreadsheets on the website, there are those for different types of establishment. What these do not show is the exact type of board arrangements that hotels offer, but the ministry has this information. Or it is supposed to have it, as hotels are supposed to register board offers with the ministry.

But even supposing that, for some reason, the ministry doesn't have this information, why has it taken three years for it to make available information about all-inclusive places? And, moreover, why has it taken three years to issue information that disputes that which it makes public on its website, namely the total number of overnight stays? An answer to the first of these questions is that it hasn't taken three years.

The 15% figure that was reported last week wasn't in fact new news. On 23 March 2010, I wrote an article in which I quoted the figure. It had come from the hoteliers federation. Another article I wrote in 2010 (6 May) referred to the 165 hotels. Information from? The hoteliers federation.

So, I am totally baffled as to why these statistics were issued last week. Baffled as to why there has not been a more recent "survey" of all-inclusives by the tourism ministry and baffled as to why there is a discrepancy in the statistics, as revealed by the ministry's website figures which, were there not the discrepancy, would show a higher percentage of all-inclusive in 2010.

What might we conclude from all of this? Might this conclusion be that there is a wish to suppress information about the true level of all-inclusives? But there again, what is the true level? What was interesting about the reporting of these figures last week was mention of the fact that not only would the level of all-inclusive have increased since 2010 (which it undoubtedly has) but that it was nigh on impossible to get a true figure because of the common practice by hotels of offering upgrades to guests with other board arrangements when they arrive. This was hardly a revelation. It's a practice that has been happening for years. 

We don't know what the true level is. We will probably never know. And yet, there have been political demands for there to be true and accurate information. Concerned by reports of a 15% decline in restaurant turnover, these demands were made. When was this? July 2008. Who made them? The Partido Popular. Who now runs the tourism ministry ...?

Any comments to please.

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