Thursday, January 09, 2014

Hi Ho Selva: Promoting small towns

Another small town in Mallorca is cracking on with its tourism plan, as required by he who must be obeyed at the regional government's tourism ministry. This time it's Selva, a place with fewer than 4,000 people that abuts the large (geographically if not in terms of population) Tramuntana municipality of Escorca, Inca to its south, Mancor de la Vall and Lloseta on its western side and Campanet and Búger on its eastern side. Selva is five villages in one - Selva itself, Caimari, Moscari, Biniamar and Binibona. The Arabic influence on its names is therefore clear, though Selva itself is reckoned to have come either from the Latin for forest or from a pre-Roman term for silver. Whatever the origin, and as ever there is not one hundred per cent agreement, Selva was documented in Jaume I's land census of 1232 as the Xilvar farm. (Xilvar is used today, as with, for instance, the town's sports club which bears this name.)

Being five places in one, Selva's political organisation reflects this. Three of the villages - Caimari, Moscari and Biniamar - have their own delegates at the town hall and, in tourism terms, there is a councillor responsible for fiestas and fairs in the three. You could say, therefore, that things are either somewhat fragmented or perfect in conforming to an ideal, highly local, fiesta democracy. There is, though, one councillor who has the wider tourism remit. Pere Segui Caimari is that councillor and, yes, he is also the chap who looks after Caimari's fiestas as well as sanitation, maintenance, municipal services and, unless I'm totally misunderstanding the Catalan, manure. He's a busy fellow, therefore, and possibly unique. Or maybe there are other councillors knocking around Mallorca who have the dung portfolio.

Selva's tourism plan hasn't yet been decided upon, but the process for arriving at a definitive plan is commendable. The town hall has been asking the people of the town what they think. 90 people turned up to the first meeting to offer their views. What a revolutionary concept. Actually seeking opinions as to tourism. There must be a lesson to be learned here by grander tourism bodies. Or perhaps not. Whatever comes from this consultation, Selva's tourism is not going to be huge. Two hundred hotel places are all that the town can stretch to, spread across a dozen establishments, both agrotourist and petit interior hotels. But in addition to these hotel places, there are some 90 holiday homes which presumably can accommodate rather more tourists than the hotels can. As such, Selva is pretty much a model town for the tourism ministry's bold move into rural tourism and liberalisation of rural properties for tourism purposes.

The town hall believes that future success for tourism lies with the town's location. In this, he is probably not wrong. Selva, five villages in one, can offer three aspects of tourism in one. Mainly agricultural, it is typical of rural Mallorca, while it has mountains close by and the beaches of Pollensa and Alcúdia not a million kilometres away.

As with tourism plans for other small towns on the island, the devil lies not in the detail of cultural routes, walking, Selva's herbs fair and Caimari's olives fair but in how the message is put across - if at all - and also in establishing a back story, one that makes the town stand out. The town hall, fair to it, has put the brief history of Selva that appears on the municipal website into both English and German. But it is brief. It doesn't really tell you anything that might make you think, ah, I must have a holiday in Selva. What might mean more to the prospective visitor are the images of places of local interest. Yet, click on these and up comes a description in, you've guessed it, Catalan, and only in Catalan.

These towns, and the same can be said for much of Mallorca's tourism, needs to reach out far more and do so systematically in different languages (English and German at least). Doubtless there is information for Selva knocking around that makes use of social media - videos, social networks or whatever - but it will be fragmented, a bit like the political organisation for the fiestas and fairs.

Resources are, one accepts, an issue. A town with under 4,000 people and with tourist accommodation for possibly a maximum of 600 is limited both in terms of funds and probably also of ambition. But if there is to be a tourism plan, there needs to be much more than just a document drawn up and handed over to the ministry for filing. While the town hall is right in believing that Selva's location does offer benefits which could lead to success, it needs to demonstrate these, and a co-ordinated and systematic social media programme could do just this.

Selva may not have a particularly compelling back story, but a story can be told nevertheless and in an effective manner with photos, videos, information via social media. It is not a means of promotion that requires breaking the bank. It just needs organising. And people who can communicate in something other than Catalan.

* Photo from the Selva town hall website,

No comments: