Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tourism Planning And Improvisation

In the summer I was fortunate enough to spend time with Jimmy Weinstein and his wife Lilli Santon who organise the Travelling School at Sa Pobla's annual international jazz festival. Among the topics we discussed was that of creative thought and how this relates to improvisation. In jazz, improvisation is often key to the performance, as is the releasing of creative energy, but there is a danger with improvisation that you end up with a wholly disjointed result. The art of improvisation is to bring the bursts of creative energy from the different performers back to the underlying theme, the core beats, hooks and melody, the strategy, if you like, of the performance.

Improvisation without the unifying hook which binds everything together takes the improviser along a meandering path that lacks both purpose and a means of judging performance. Move constantly from one point to another and it becomes impossible to make such a judgement as there is no strategy which presents itself for such judgement. The result is chaos, a mess. In jazz you can improvise endlessly and still have a coherent result. Other types of activity lend themselves far less to improvisation, if at all, and give the impression that they have been improvised with nothing to show for this.

The Balearics tourism minister, Jaime Martínez, has boldly announced that there is now no longer any improvisation in the tourism sector. For the first time, everything is planned and thus everything will be good, and this planning and so lack of improvisation is already reaping dividends; the season is getting longer, he has suggested.

Martínez is not wrong when he implies that governmental tourism policy has been made on the hoof and been subject to improvisation. The lack of coherence has been evident for years, ad-hocery combining with the hangover of complacency from the times when the tourism river ran with gold for more than a handful of months and was not dammed by summer and winter competitors panning for Balearics gold. Improvisation has finished, he says, which is no bad thing. But what of its positive bedfellow, creativity? The tourism model according to Jaime is one of plan, plan and plan again; it sounds almost Soviet in its preference for control, the antithesis of creativity or, if you prefer, imagination and innovation.

What Martínez is referring to is the tourism plan (and the tourism law) that he hatched along with his former boss, Carlos Delgado. The ex-minister said that the benefits of the plan would not be realised for a couple of years. These couple of years are now up, and the chief beneficiary of the plan is of course off-season (aka) winter tourism. And my goodness, Delgado was right. The island will be bursting with tourists this winter, the skies will be filled with aircraft, the tills of bars will be ringing merry and plentiful tunes, the unemployed and the fijo discontinuos will be no more as the hotels are open all year round. If only, and only in someone's dreams. Jaime's maybe.

The grand Martínez masterplan (and he was almost certainly responsible for it, because this is the sort of thing he does) is bringing all stakeholders together, is shifting the emphasis from sun and beach to a more diversified model with specialised products and is, more than anything, lengthening the season. Ah yes, lengthening the season. Do I need to say more? Well, only that the non-improvised masterplan will give satisfactory long-term results, says the minister.

Having a plan, a proper and feasible plan, is perfectly reasonable. Indeed, it is essential, and it had been lacking, but within this plan there has to be the creativity, and it is here where improvisation does actually come back into the equation; not by doing things in an incoherent fashion, but allowing the flow of creative thought in order to make the plan really work in ways that might establish some form of uniqueness or difference. Unfortunately, if you look at what the Balearics are doing by way of attempting to lengthen the season, then you will find that it is what everywhere else is doing. Even somewhere like Andalusia, which benefits from slightly better winter weather and a far larger golf tourism market, has much the same concerns as the Balearics and much the same solutions. Ditto Croatia. Ditto anywhere in the Med with a less-than-satisfactory off-season: culture, gastronomy, cycling, blah, blah, the same old remedies as ever.

Maybe there are no creative solutions to be had, but that's a defeatist attitude, as negative as an attitude which prevails within Balearics tourism ministry circles which views tourism from a Balearics perspective and not from that of the wide world of the tourist. Plan by all means, but some creative improvisation within the plan is just as essential.


Son Fe Mick said...

Good morning Andrew
In my time I have prepared marketing plans for large corporations and helped develop products for new niche markets so I would be interested to know what this plan is.
My understanding of Spanish is extremely poor so could you provide me with a abridged version in English.
My experience so far of living on this island paradise is that marketing and customer service is not always at the top of providers to do list.
Still the best place in the world to retire there's a market!!!

andrew said...

Mick, I've emailed you something.