Wednesday, May 07, 2014

A Complement Of Complementary Offer

Some months after it was first spoken of, Mallorca's complementary offer of restaurants, attractions, clubs and other non-hotel businesses is to finally have one unified organisation. The "Confederación de Patronales Turísticas de Balears" will come into being on Friday. Its first president will be Antonio González, director of the Palma Aquarium and president of the association of tourist attractions (AMAT).

The significance of this new organisation shouldn't be underestimated. If the various sectors of the complementary offer combine, and do so in a co-ordinated and co-operative fashion, they will represent a major power block to rival that of the hotel lobby. Their coming-together will eliminate the fragmentation that currently exists among the complementary offer and create an altogether stronger mix than the diluted one that is at present shared out among other groupings.

There are bodies which represent the complementary offer, but the trouble is that there are simply so many of them. These other bodies, such as the restaurant division of CAEB, the Balearics business confederation, or the tourist businesses association Acotur, aren't about to be done away with, but the new confederation should be more powerful. It will, hopefully, not get mired in the sort of in-fighting which has afflicted CAEB recently. Indeed, its founding is partly in response to arguments that CAEB was too close to the hotel sector. It will also hopefully have more clout than Acotur, an association which appears to be little more than a Pepe Tirado one-man band that creates much publicity but not a lot else.

González is probably the right person to head this confederation. Since becoming president of AMAT over two years ago, he has made that association very much visible than it previously was, and he has had much to say that has resonated with most of the complementary offer. He has been particularly critical of all-inclusive hotels, for example.

On being named president in March 2012, González said that "at present the Mallorcan complementary offer does not have the importance or carry the weight  that it should do". He saw the need not just for a more muscular tourist attractions association but also a powerful complementary offer association. He deserves credit for having pushed for the new confederation.

González says that it is not the intention for the confederation to be a "counter-power" to the hotels but for it to facilitate communication with the regional government. However, a counter-power is almost certainly what it will be, given that the complementary offer has so many issues which run counter to hotel activities and to government policy.

Moreover, he took over as president of AMAT at a time when the complementary offer was shafted by the hotels over the 2012 tourism law. There had been a form of accord between the two sides, one that was meant to have represented a unified front in discussions with the tourism ministry. The complementary offer was perhaps a bit naïve. It thought it was getting somewhere with the hotels in there having been tentative agreement for higher quality standards for all-inclusives (something which could have stopped some hotels offering AI). But when it came to a key part of the tourism law - the provision of so-called secondary activities inside hotels - the hoteliers bit the government's hand off and stuck two fingers up at the complementary offer. And little or nothing came to pass where AI was concerned, apart from the wholly ludicrous, unenforceable and largely irrelevant legislation which is supposed to prevent guests taking food and drink off hotel premises.

The secondary activities, by which one means the likes of restaurants, shows, concerts, etc. open to the general public, are now taking on greater significance. They also blur the lines between the hotels and the complementary offer and so potentially make the new confederation's task that bit more complicated. As an example, Cursach, which as a club owner is part of the complementary offer and a member of AMAT, is moving into hotel operations in Magalluf. It is doing so, thanks to the provision under the tourism law. Other businesses might also sense opportunities to become more intimately associated with hotels (Katmandu in Magalluf is another example).

But other businesses will not have opportunities - the Aquarium couldn't just be relocated to the grounds of a hotel, for instance. González's task will not be straightforward, but secondary activities are an issue which is potentially as important and divisive as all-inclusives or indeed holiday lets. The complementary offer has expressed its concerns over government policy on rentals. The new confederation, with its greater power, might just manage to get more of an ear of government on these.

The confederation's founding is long, long overdue, begging a question as to why it has taken so long. But, better late than never. Hopefully.

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