Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The High Summer Of Saturation

It's the ducks which do it of course: the ducks and Pep Guardiola. The Manchester City supremo may be a Premier League virgin, but he'll do as a representative. The football season returned not so much with a bang but with the bank vault having been blasted open with a nuclear device and a vast mushroom cloud of cash obliterating the summer skies as the wads rained down on agents and their eager clients. What madness it is. As someone said, money, where English football is concerned, has ceased to have any value.

Curiously, the great stakeholder base, which could once afford a speck on the terraces, remains intact but now scrapes its pennies together in order to pay its tithes to the Murdoch empire and the bastard descendant of Maggie's privatisation of the spun-off telecommunications wing of the Post Office. Fans howl for millions more to be spent in pursuit of a grand marketing masterplan. When money loses its value, the money is meaningless. It's like Monopoly, only million times greater.

This is just as well. The bars (British) of Mallorca count the days until the new season starts. And so it did start, as it always does right around the time that summer begins to splutter before hurtling into its tailspin. This might also seem curious, as high summer is still here, but it's the ducks (as well as the Premier League) which suggest otherwise.

The day of Assumption, 15 August, marks the swim for the ducks of Can Picafort and summer's peak. No doubt the occupancy numbers will remain close to maximum, but once the peak has been reached, there's no mistaking the signs of summer in descent. Slow at first, and then suddenly it's gone. Again.

And as it makes its descent, what will there be to debate? With almost total certainty we know that Mallorca's saturation point of last mid-August will have been surpassed this mid-August. If it hasn't been, then politicians will be disappointed. A point of argumentation will have been undermined.

But what is this saturation? Is it a state of mind rather than wholly physical? What constitutes saturation? The government is hiring experts to explain all. To what end? Will there be controllers at Son Sant Joan with counters which, when they reach a predetermined number, will trigger the raising of barriers? Mallorca's full. Go home.

This saturation does of course bring with it riches and wealth. More riches and wealth. We should be grateful that it does. Shouldn't we? But the riches are often meaningless. They find their way into the investment portfolios of some of Spain's wealthiest individuals. Pickings for others are meanwhile slim ones, sufficient to enable a reasonable winter return on the dole, but slim nonetheless. Unlike football, alienation of the stakeholder base has existed over time. It howls for more money of its own, not for meaningless amounts to be spent on fantasies and the fantastic.

Saturation is not egalitarian. But then tourism never has been. Oh, an original philosophy where the tourist was concerned was predicated on an ideal of equal rights to a foreign holiday (the philosophy of Horizon's Vladimir Raitz anyway). But the equal distribution of wealth has never been part of the equation: only the generation of wealth.

The government would like there to be greater distribution. It may succeed, but will this turn back the tide of negativity, for which saturation is now a chief conspirator? By its very narratives, the government has fostered negativity. It demands that there is now sustainable tourism. Logically this means that tourism, as it is, is unsustainable. Meaning what exactly? Just as saturation has not been defined or quantified, so sustainability is not qualified. Saturation and non-sustainability are thus states of mind, allowed to enter society's consciousness and to become accepted wisdoms.

As part of its sustainability message, the government wishes to now inform the public about the value of tourism. Yet it has allowed a perception of lack of value to take hold, one to be addressed fiscally with a tax. Its mantras include that of "quality", the indefinable platitude that is sustainability's fellow traveller on the way to non-saturation.

So as summer starts its descent, the saturation will lessen. There will still be the Palma-centric obsessing with cruise passengers, a class of saturators divorced from the rest of the island, but otherwise the numbers will fall, just as fall comes round until finally the question is asked: where did everyone go? If only some thousands of summer visitors could be magically moved to November or December. If only ... .

And then, as thoughts begin to turn to next summer, there will be the other saturation. Cyclists. Keys to sustainability and tackling seasonality but the objects of venom. What does this island want? Does it know? And come next August high summer, nothing will have changed. Let's play Monopoly.

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