Tuesday, February 25, 2014

January Just Got Worse

Let me take you back to December 2012, a time when Carlos Delgado was still tourism minister and a time when prospects for winter tourism in the Balearics suddenly looked very much brighter. The light amidst the gloom of the off-season was to be shone thanks to the fact that, for the first time, the "winter product" was to be worked on in a "planned and perceptible" manner. That there was, for the first time, such an approach was an admission of failure in the past, but now there was to be this work on the winter product and eventually the Balearics would be a promised land of off-season riches where the cycle paths would be paved with gold and where the handful of loaves and fish of the local gastronomy would feed multitudes.

Well, not quite of course and certainly not immediately. Ever shrewd, Carlos admitted that this once-in-a-lifetime plan for winter tourism might not reap rewards within only one or two years. Nevertheless, because the plan - here a travel fair, there a familiarisation trip - was going to be planned and perceptible, rewards would eventually follow. 

Carlos has now gone, but his ministerial sidekick, the faithful Jaime Martínez, who for ten years had benefited from the Delgado political mentorship, is still here. The great vision for the new world of winter tourism that was unveiled in December 2012 was a Carlos-Jaime co-production. Jaime is now the minister. Jaime, I know you are not long in your post, I know that it is not even two years since the plan was produced, but have you seen the figures for January?

I have to assume that, as tourism minister, he will have seen the figures and will have sunk deeper into the new and larger ministerial chair. He might argue that you can prove anything with statistics, but he has himself doubtless sought to prove anything with statistics. There's no having it both ways and, regardless of any questions about data collection methodology, the statistics make grim reading. In January, Mallorca (not the Balearics as a whole) lost over 20,000 tourists. Put another way, tourism in Mallorca was down by over 11%. In Andalusia, by contrast, it was up by over 23%. In Catalonia, tourist tax and all, it was up by 13.5%. Nationally it was up by over 12%. Mallorca (the Balearics) was the only one of the major tourism regions to have experienced a slump. Jaime, explain.

Will the plan bring about a reversal in January fortunes in 2015? The fairs are being attended, the trips are being made but not in vastly greater number than they were last year. There is, though, greater expenditure on promotion; Jaime said so at the press conference at which he was handed the baton from Carlos in December last year. Greater expenditure or greater spreading thinly? An average cost per the total of 145 promotional activities (fairs etc.) that is six times less than the average cost incurred by the last administration. More for less, and I have to say I don't necessarily disagree that this is bad policy or that there is a bad plan. Just. Where's the evidence that it is achieving anything or will achieve anything? Down by over 11% this January.

 There are further statistics, those for overnight stays in hotels. While the data gathering for actual tourists - the questionnaires used at airports and ports - might be thought to be a little hit or miss, stays in hotels are more accurate. For Mallorca, the January figure for foreign tourists was down, well down. Down by a third in fact. Catalonia and Andalusia, on the other hand, up, and let's not even bother mentioning the Canaries. In the main tourist press reports of these overnight stays, they don't refer to Mallorca or to the Balearics. Why would they? There's little to refer to. You have to consult the spreadsheets. I'm sure you have, Jaime.

Maybe, when February's figures are released, things will look better. Cycling tourists don't, after all, start coming in any great number until February, but even better figures for February would miss the point, which is that other parts of Spain have shown increases in January while Mallorca has shown a fall. Jaime, you know the reasons, because you said so when Carlos and President Bauzá were grinning when you told the press how things would be with you as minister. Tourists have to have the idea placed in their minds that there is more than just sun and beach, and once their minds are changed, the airlines will schedule more flights.

Changing minds possibly yes, but then possibly no. You know the two most important markets, Jaime. Have you seen the figures for January? The numbers for UK and German tourists. The number for the latter is four times greater. Now, why do you think that is?

No comments: