Monday, August 19, 2013

The Matrix Of Tourism Totalitarianism

The matrix is a tool beloved of consultants. So beloved has it been that whole consultancy businesses have been built on the wisdom and truths to be found in a matrix, despite its being so apparently simple. The product life cycle matrix, the SWOT matrix, the growth-share (aka cash cow, dogs etc.) matrix; each of them can be made matrix as four squares in a bigger square.

Simplicity does, though, conceal complexity, and this complexity stems from diversity and seemingly endless permutations. The four-square matrix has become a Rubik's Cube, a three-dimensional polyhedron of shifting properties. It creates more questions than answers, but the conundrums that it poses do not mean that the questions should be ignored. There are truths and there is wisdom, if only you know which twists to make.

Before it was devoured by its role as a front for the diversion of public funds (some of these funds provided, therefore, by a diverse tourism population), the Inestur division within the Balearics tourism ministry existed for the purposes of researching the tourism industry and abetting strategic planning. Now, I am unsure as to how research is organised, if at all, but if it is, then it should be making use of the matrix, a highly diverse and complex matrix with numerous permutations. But I fear that the ministry wouldn't see it this way, as it sees tourism as being essentially one-dimensional. There is no depth to its tourism vision. Only the surface. And it is a one-dimensionality defined in one word - hotel.

A further tool that is beloved of consultants is in fact a whole tool box comprising the means to dissect markets and customers. Profiling, segmentation, niching, any number of concepts that end with the suffix "graphics"; these all point to complexity but all hint at truths to be discovered.

If you were to set yourself the task of creating a matrix to include all possible variables as they apply to Mallorca's tourism, it would take you a fair old time. But it could be done. It wouldn't be as difficult as it might sound. These variables should be obvious. There would be those that deal with hard facts: age, gender, country of origin and so on. There would also be those which are intangibles - lifestyles, aspirations, for instance. Space would need to be found for locations - from the sardine-packed beaches of Playa de Palma to secluded coves to rural settings. And there would also need to be a place for accommodation, all types of accommodation.

Once you had completed your task, your matrix would reveal not just these variables in isolation but also their correlations - the seemingly endless permutations of an industry whose properties, far from remaining static, are in a constant state of movement. And when you look closely at these permutations, you would find some truths, those exposed by what appears to be missing or which are treated with disregard or hostility.

This, however, assumes you would be open-minded enough to admit that there may be things missing. If you operate your tourism along genuinely free-market lines, then your mind will be open. If, on the other hand, you adopt an authoritarian or totalitarian attitude, you will not. Free markets are anathema to the one-eyed, one-dimensional control freakery of authoritarianism or totalitarianism, except to the extent that strictly controlled free markets (an oxymoron) are defined by limits deemed acceptable and in accordance with ideological dogma. The result of this is that customers and markets are not granted primacy. Rather than free, both are herded into the concentration camps.

An extraordinary thing happened yesterday. I read an article in the Spanish press that attacked the dominance of hotels and which described the regional government as the armed wing of the hoteliers. It went on to refer not to the general tourism law but to the Franco general tourism law. It was extraordinary because it was unexpected and also because I, quite separately, had been forming the idea of tourism totalitarianism, i.e. a way of describing the hostility shown towards private accommodation for holiday rental and so therefore its non-appearance as a truth in any sensible and complete matrix of Mallorca's tourism industry and strategy. 

The regional government stands accused of an ideological tourism totalitarianism, of a market monopolization and of abusive disregard for a significant segment of the island's customers and of the wider economy. The complexity of the matrix really isn't so complex. It is very simple. But either because of wilfulness or intellectual vacuity, the government cannot and will not appreciate this simplicity.

Any comments to please.

No comments: