Thursday, November 19, 2015

Staying On The Plain: Tourism promotion

The mayors of various towns in Mallorca's "Pla" (plain) got together the other day to find out about the tourist, cultural, educative and social potential of the small town of Montuïri. That's a lot of potential they were being asked to consider. How potent any of it is, only they can say.

It seems odd that mayors from neighbouring or nearby towns and villages should be engaged in such a fact-finding mission. The neighbours were Algaida, Porreres, Lloret. Those from nearby were Costitx, Petra, Sineu, Llubi and Maria de la Salut, each of them - by virtue of the small distances that need to be travelled - virtual neighbours. Are they really unaware of the potential that exists close by?

The towns on the plain do have a history of coming together. The mancomunidad (commonwealth) of town halls of the Pla has been one of the more successful of these ventures of combination and sharing, insofar as it hasn't collapsed through a lack of interest and apparent disinclination to work together, as has been the case elsewhere on the island. What it achieves though, apart from acting as a talking shop for mutual interest, is anyone's guess.

Inter-town rivalry has been a cause of these commonwealths not functioning as they might. A further reason is the dominance of one or more towns within their make-up. Inca, for example, towers over towns of the Raiguer mancomunidad. Or would do, were it not for Marratxi. At the top of the geographical layout of the Raiguer is Inca with its northern Mallorca attachment and association, the legal and administrative centre for this part of the island. At the base is Marratxi, seemingly more linked with Palma to an extent that it can be looked upon as a suburb. The common ground of the Raiguer is less clear than that of the Pla.

In theory, these commonwealths, established for many years and with their own statutes, act as counterpoints to the overwhelming island superiority of Palma. They are blocs within the "part forana" (the island which isn't Palma), yet their voices are mostly mute. Their purpose has thus been rendered questionable because none have ever acted as they might have done in genuinely establishing common cause and representing common interest.

The Pla has, however, worked well in one regard, and that is its efforts when it comes to tourism. Or at least, it has created a useful website - - a reasonable resource that covers the fourteen towns and villages which are embraced by the commonwealth. This website notwithstanding, a reason why the mayors got together in Montuïri was to consider how best to further pool thoughts, resources and efforts in promoting this region of the island.

The mayors were at pains to stress that they weren't considering any "grand projects". Rather, they were looking at taking "small steps to making the potential of the Pla better known". The lack of ambition implied by these words can be considered either disappointing or realistic. What grand projects could be realised anyway?

Or were they a reflection of an historical reluctance to accept or to envisage a role within the wider tourism offer of Mallorca? When Carlos Delgado, largely (and not always correctly) derided as tourism minister, insisted that each town came up with a strategic plan for tourism, he set in motion, or should have done, a process for doing what the mayors have just been speaking about: developing potential. Of the towns in the Pla, Algaida deserves credit for having created a decent website. The others? How will Petra exploit (if this is the right word) its new found status as home town of a Mallorcan saint? Will it exploit it? Does it really want to?

Delgado's initiative was a perfectly sensible one. He saw a need for a whole Mallorca approach and wanted to know what each town would be doing to release the potential of the whole island. The initiative now seems lost. What has happened to these individual town plans? The mayors of the Pla shouldn't need to go on fact-finding exercises because the information is theoretically available. And, moreover, they have an institutional framework - the mancomunidad - to work on the "potential".

Biel Barceló, Delgado's successor once removed, talks the good talk about different models, yet the ministry's obsessions are as they largely have only ever been: the resorts, two of them anyway (Magalluf and Playa de Palma) and legalistic mechanisms (the tourist tax in this instance). Has Delgado's initiative been quietly filed because it was Delgado? Quite possibly. 

The least that the ministry could do would be to create - once and for all - a brilliant web presence that includes regions such as the Pla. It shouldn't simply be down to the mancomunidad to work on seemingly limited ambitions for tourism. But then, promotion of tourism seems to be the last thing the ministry is concerning itself with.

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