Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Very Many Drunken Tourists

Johanna, 20. Never having been to Arenal, she went off with a friend to take a look. When she returned (to Playa de Muro), she reported, with the slightly mangled English that Germans sometimes betray, that many tourists were "very drunken" (German for drunk is "betrunken", so it's an easy mistake to make).

Drunken tourists are flavour of the month once more. German ones predominantly. Playa de Palma - Arenal and all - is German sunbedsraum land. And German bierkeller land. It celebrates a drinking culture, one in particular of Bavaria, where I used to live. Drink, beer most obviously, is engrained into this culture. Yet it is not like a British drink culture.

Of course, it is perfectly acceptable to get legless. Indeed, when it comes to the annual "Kirchweih" (the peculiarly named village and town fiestas for dedication to the church), local businesses will have their tables at the bierfest. They positively insist that everyone gets rat arsed. But what is not acceptable is to get "very drunken" and out of control. Nor is it acceptable to treat the institutionalised nature of drinking as bingeing. The line might seem fine, but bingeing it is not.

While British drinking culture can appear to have no control and no limits, Germany's has both. But transport an element of the nation's tourists to Mallorca and it's that old rivalry all over again. Very many drunken tourists. Which side is the winner?

There's a newspaper headline. Spanish. "Mallorca declares war on drunkenness in public areas." This, specifically, is tourist drunkenness, though not exclusively; tourists are not responsible for the drunkenness of Santa Catalina's "tardeo". The war has been declared nevertheless, and it is on account of drinking events in public areas: in Playa de Palma with its manifestations of German drinking culture. Controlled for the most part, it is - all the same - inclined to spill out onto the streets with its pants down and its voice at high volume. Bingeing is being organised. In public areas. War has therefore been declared.

It has happened before. Last year, for example. On two weekends in early season, the drunken tourists were of sufficient number to have brought traffic to a standstill. Videos were posted. There was no mistaking the national origin of this drunkenness. Yet little was said or done. The mood has now changed. Or appears to have. Palma has caught the Calvia bug. Tough on drink, tough on the causes of drink. Supposedly, anyway.

Perpetually smiling mayor, José Hila, was joined by the ray of sunshine at the tourism ministry, Biel Barceló. They strolled along the prom in Playa de Palma, the latest head of police walking with them. Why? They were examining the general area where another public-area drinking event (unauthorised) was scheduled for the following day. Would a stroll on the day in question not have been of greater value? See for themselves; that sort of thing. Or, as with other wars, do the chiefs prefer to absent themselves from the front line - Playa de Palma's in this instance - and only learn about casualties via dispatches?

The very drunken tourists of Arenal are not alone of course. Remember Magalluf? Heard about Santa Ponsa? Ah yes, Santa Ponsa, only now coming into Calvia radar distance. You'll surely remember Magalluf though. All those determined to provide the resort with touristic gentrification. Such as tour operators. Such hypocrites. Is TUI, German TUI, alone in its type of publicity? The company has removed it, following a complaint from one of the war chiefs, i.e. Barceló. It was advertising fun until the doctor comes (that was one of the slogans). For 390 euros, 4-star. Yes, you can up the star rating, as Mallorca pursues its up-marketing, but it doesn't mean that you remove the drinking. In the lower part of the season there are rooms and planes to be filled, niche markets to be attracted. The fine words of tour operators and others count for very little. Hypocrites.

Where will the battle lines of this war be? Barceló intimates that there are to be continuous inspections in tourist resorts. Continuous? Inspections? Who by? Which resorts? Shall we guess? The resorts of political necessity, namely Magalluf and Playa de Palma. The war chiefs are largely unaware of the existence of others. Santa Ponsa they are now learning about, but what of Cala Ratjada or Alcudia? In the latter the incidents are minimal, but there have been incidents nonetheless and of an entirely Spanish origin.

In Catalonia they've declared their own war: official disassociation from any company - tour operator, whatever - which promotes drunken tourism, a move driven partly by the promotion of spring breaks, such as that of Salou ("the premier orgy in Spain"). Tough on drink, tough on the causes of drink: the organisers, the promoters. Mallorca should do likewise. It's war, Sr. Barceló.

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