Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Finger In The Dyke: Tourism commissioner

In an ancient copy of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" is a photo of a group of tourists gathered in a hotel to watch the 1966 World Cup final. How civilised things were back then. Some were even wearing ties. It was football from a different era, one of the Bobby gentlemen - Moore and Charlton - though one shouldn't of course forget that there was always Nobby Stiles. Different era but a time when England ruled the footballing waves and Mallorca had come from almost nowhere to scoop the tourism crown.

Mallorca's tourism doesn't have the same longevity as the English Football Association (unless you throw in the likes of the Archduke Louis Salvador and his intellectual tourist chums of the late nineteenth century) but it has its history, and, like English football, it had its time of isolation. The FA, secretarially led in the 1930s by Stanley Rous, a former referee with a strange moustache, looked down on the playing of foreign johnnies for the title of world champions, while Mallorca, from the mid-1930s, went into a period of tourism shutdown thanks to a military man with a strange moustache who didn't much care for any foreign johnnies (unless they were Italian).

By the mid-1960s this had all changed. But after those heady days there were times in the doldrums. England failed to qualify for successive World Cups in the 1970s, while the fallout from the oil crisis in the mid-1970s left Mallorca temporarily short of tourist numbers it had become accustomed to. Better times lay ahead. England rejoined the elite, while Mallorca was very much the elite. Then there was recession at the start of the 1990s. Tourism was hurt for a time, while Graham Taylor did not like the fact that England missed out on the 1994 tournament.

There was recovery and so we are where we are today, England preparing to head off to Brazil, unlikely to pull off a miracle of Roy of the Rovers proportions and settling instead for some Roy of the Rhesus monkeying around when presented with the fear of the penalty spot, and Mallorca being regular qualifiers and among the bookies' tourism favourites but only securing victories thanks largely to off-the-field carryings-on among the competition.

Greg Dyke is proof of the rule that whenever successful businesspeople go anywhere near football they rat on previous rationalism and that, if they are mad enough to end up at the FA, they end up sticking their fingers in dykes in seeking to cure symptoms rather than attacking causes. Dyke might maintain otherwise but a one-time management style of cutting out the crap (Birt's BBC variety) has been turned on its head. The make-up of the FA's commission, initially and partly an exercise in FA politics schmoozing, belatedly diversity tokenism, will mean that he will do well to even get as far as sticking the finger in the dyke.

Why bother with a commission anyway? Get thee from Wembley, Mr. Dyke, and go and talk yourself to whoever you can find about technique, coaching and all the rest. Rather than having Hoddle shouting across a table at Wilkinson, talk to them separately. Counsel opinion, counsel views, ask questions and listen.

Mallorca has a tourism chairman of sorts. He is the tourism minister. Mallorca doesn't have a tourism commission but if it were to then it, too, would be populated with the politically acceptable usual suspects, most of whom have contributed well enough but who have failed to address underlying concerns. Performance on the tourism pitch obscures a lack of service technique, conceals the dominance of the hotel long-ball game, masks the disconnect between all-star all-inclusive and the simple bar owners on their terraces, hides the presence of a system which works well enough on the sun-kissed sands of summer but which falls apart when the winter winds disrupt this high-season tourist tiki-taka, papers over the cracks of Mallorca premier league status caused by modern-thinking competitors.

Mallorca needs a tourism commissioner, one who cuts through the crap. One who talks to the grassroots, those within the tourism industry locally so not just the CEO class, and to the grassroots who are not within the industry but who give it its living - tourists themselves. A commissioner wouldn't even have to leave his office to do this. He can have conversations with this grassroots from his desktop.

It might all seem unnecessary. Mallorca is metaphorically on its way to Brazil and it maintains one hand on the trophy. But there are plenty of others who are going to their Brazils: to Croatia, to Turkey, to Egypt ...

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