Monday, April 14, 2014

Ten Things That Changed Mallorca's Tourism

In celebrating twenty years of existence, the travel magazine "Hosteltur" has identified twenty words or terms which have defined tourism since 1994. These are terms which are applicable to tourism generally, so I have narrowed the parameters and considered themes which have been of fundamental importance to Mallorca since 1994.

1. All-inclusive. The origins of the all-inclusive can be argued about. They are normally attributed to Club Med and their expansion to complexes such as Sandals. While Club Med had been around on Mallorca since the 1950s, it hadn't been a significant player, and the all-inclusive, as we now know it, didn't become a feature of the tourism landscape until roughly twenty years ago, and even then it was limited largely to the north and east of the island. We all know about its diffusion since then and the extent to which it has disrupted the previously harmonious balance between hotel and complementary sectors.

2. Beach zoning. On 4 March 1994 the Balearic Government issued a decree which established criteria for what could happen and what couldn't happen on beaches and on which parts. Different zones were created, some of which had limits set as to space which could be used. Why does this make the list? Firstly, because there hadn't previously been such a system and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it was a form of standardisation which removed improvisation and arguably also removed some of the fun that had been had on beaches.

3. Crisis. Mallorca has experienced previous economic hard times - the oil crisis in the 1970s and the recession of the early 1990s - but the crisis (still with us but not as bad as it had been) shook tourism in different ways, such as by cutting credit and making even more popular the cost appeal of the all-inclusive holiday.

4. EasyJet. It may seem remarkable that easyJet isn't even twenty years old yet: it was founded in 1995. By 1998 the airline was flying daily from Luton to Palma as part of its summer schedule (late March to late October). EasyJet and the other low-cost airlines were to be significant in increasing passenger traffic through Son Sant Joan and in putting an impetus behind independent travel to the detriment of the package holiday.

5. Euro. 1 January 1999 was when it happened; when suddenly everything in Mallorca became that much more expensive. This is the commonly held view, and one that has some justification. It removed the inconvenience of changing currency, but only for those tourists from countries which adopted it.

6. Internet. In 1994 the internet was still an unproven concept and was far from being in everyday use. How things have changed. The web has not just been a fundamental change, it has been a revolution. Tourism has been turned on its head. Bookings, information, recommendations ..., it gave the tourist-consumer a power he previously hadn't possessed.

7. Ley General Turística. 24 March 1999 was the day when the Balearics' first tourism law was approved. The more recent 2012 tourism law reinforced much of what was in this first law, including prohibitions on some types of private property as holiday accommodation. One of the mysteries that surrounds the holiday-lets argument is quite why anyone finds it a comparatively new argument. It has certainly existed since 1999, though in fact there was a law as long ago as 1984 which tackled the subject - the "ley sobre alojamientos extrahoteleros".

8. POOT. The Plan de la Oferta Turística de Mallorca was approved by decree on 6 April 1995. It was a plan that was of profound importance. Though there had been previous plans which sought to organise how land was used for tourism purposes, the POOT was the first time that hard-and-fast criteria had been adopted. Essentially what POOT does is to place limits on the amount of tourism development within municipal boundaries.

9. Secondary activities. This is the newest of the fundamental changes. Part of the 2012 tourism law, secondary activities allow hotels to offer activities to the general public (and so not just guests) which had previously been the domain of the non-hotel, complementary sector. They can include all manner of things - restaurants, shops, clubs, concerts to name but a few. It is early days but secondary activities are likely to disrupt even further the balance between the hotel and complementary sectors.

10. Sustainability. An at-times nebulous concept and one that seems more often to be used for marketing purposes than for practical ones, sustainability is supposed to strike a balance between the demands of tourism and those of the environment, resources and the local economy. One of the first conferences dedicated to the subject was held in 1995.

Space has permitted only ten themes. There are others, and perhaps you have your own suggestions as to ways in which Mallorca's tourism has been changed over the last 20 years.

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