Thursday, March 27, 2014

So Very Little: Mapping tourism

We are all familiar with the map of Mallorca. We are able to pinpoint those parts of the island where there is a concentration of tourism. We are aware of these concentrations, but it requires a particular type of map to highlight them, a basic one which shows the boundaries of the municipalities but very little else. This map is colour-coded. Red indicates existing golf courses. Yellow denotes possible golf courses. Grey represents residential zones (without, by definition, any notable concentration of tourism). The fourth, in purple, shows tourism zones, or more accurately zones which accord with the plan of organisation for the touristic offer: POOT. The purple zones appear on a map which is the blueprint for the Plan Territorial de Mallorca, the Mallorca land plan.

POOT is an urban planning mechanism. Its purpose is to lay down rules as to the density of touristic development. Essentially, it operates according to a quota system; only so much land in given municipalities can be dedicated to such development. The POOT zones are the ones with tourism concentration, and when one looks at this particular map, something strikes you. Because it is so stripped-down, the amount of purple looks inconsequential. We know about the concentrations of tourism, but in the overall land scheme, they amount to only a very small part of Mallorca.

The residential zones, those not covered by POOT because there is little or no touristic development other than, for example, agrotourism, country fincas for rent and so on, are distributed right across the island with the exception of chunks of the Tramuntana region. They are the town centres. The grey that represents them is to be found in largest amount where you would expect it to be found - Palma and Marratxí.

What is not shown on this basic map are other areas covered by the land plan. They include areas of a high level of protection, natural areas of special interest, rural areas of wooded landscape interest, areas of farming interest, and rustic land under the general forestry regime. There are others, each with their own acronym; areas for this, areas for that.

The POOT purple is only to be found in coastal areas. All of the municipalities which have coast have some POOT, with the exception of six along the west coast - Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Deiá, Fornalutx and Escorca. Of these, it might be surprising to learn that Deiá has no purple; Deiá does, after all, have tourism. It does, but it isn't a touristic zone. Its land use is determined in other ways, which exclude development that would make it a touristic zone in the same way as Port de Sóller is.

Of the coastal municipalities, there is one striking example of just how little land, comparatively speaking, is dedicated to tourism development, and that is Llucmajor. By land area, it is Mallorca's largest municipality, 120 square kilometres or so bigger than Palma, 60 square kilometres bigger than the second largest, Manacor, and over twice the size of Calvia. Being home to Arenal, Llucmajor might conceivably have acquired a negative image, but when does anyone hear anything untoward about Sa Torre or Cala Pi? Arenal can be spoken of in the same breath as Magalluf, but then Magalluf is part of a virtually unbroken coastal conurbation within one municipality.

Calvia is, in a sense, an anomaly. The density of its tourism development, its POOT ratio, far exceeds that of any other municipality. And it is its disproportionate level of tourism development which, one suspects, is a principal reason for charges that Mallorca sold its soul to the devil of tourism. One is well aware of the coastal abominations that have been committed in different touristic zones and also aware of accusations of over-commercialism, over-construction and indeed over-reliance on tourism, yet, with the exception of Calvia (even Palma's POOT is relatively confined), the map paints a picture that doesn't quite measure up to this charge list. Only Alcúdia and Capdepera, roughly the same land size and both with relatively large amounts of POOT, might - in comparative terms - be placed in a similar category as Calvia.

This POOT land is what breathes economic life into Mallorca; a very small amount of land relative to its contribution. The POOT land may have changed local culture and landscape in the coastal areas, but elsewhere? 60% of Mallorca's land is for agriculture and contributes only 1% of gross added value. Much more of the land is protected by those various other acronyms. Can POOT and tourism be held so accountable? If culture elsewhere has been changed, then it has been changed through a process of modernisation, for which tourism is only partly or incidentally responsible. We are familiar with the map of Mallorca, but we are perhaps less familiar with what the map actually tells us.

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