Saturday, October 08, 2016

Bringing All-Inclusives To Account

Biel Barceló told parliament's tourism committee earlier this week that sixteen fines had been handed out to all-inclusive hotels. Quite what they were fined for was not made clear. Was it simply for having been offering all-inclusive when the hotels were not on the ministry's all-inclusive register? That wasn't the implication. Eighty all-inclusives had been "reviewed", he said, and they had been reviewed for that very reason - not having been on the register. Why not just fine them all? What is the purpose of a register? It's not meant to be voluntary. If a hotel hasn't registered, what has it got to hide?

Barceló was self-congratulatory in having been able to announce the sixteen fines. Sixteen. Hardly a princely sum. Where he was more deserving of congratulation was in being able to say that there hadn't been inspections in either 2014 or 2015. His government can be partly forgiven for 2015 as it didn't come to power until high summer was more or less upon it, but why no inspections the previous year? And what about inspections in years before that?

Another tourism minister called Barceló, Joana, was the final of the four incumbents of the post during the Antich government of 2007 to 2011. I can well recall her answering a question about all-inclusives by saying that inspections were made and that her government was being strong in this regard. Strange, therefore, how we never heard any more or from the subsequent government. All-inclusives, we were being led to believe, had a clean bill-of-health.

Let's be clear, there are different types of AI. It is a package that can be either total (it's the only option) or just one of the forms of board on offer. It is not by any means solely something from the economy end of the market. There are good - very good - hotels with AI, and the standard of the offer is also good. Service is good, the food is varied, there's no watered-down beer and there are no dodgy local brands of spirits. Should we assume that the sixteen fines were not directed at any of this class of hotel?

At the economy end, anyone with the slightest knowledge knows what the deal is. And part of that deal is the on-arrival upgrade (which may also exist with better hotels). Then there is the daily deal. Bringing in people who aren't guests. When this offer was explained to Pilar Carbonell, the director-general of tourism, at a meeting in Alcudia this time last year, it was clear that she was unaware of such a practice. And she's the director-general.

When there was some rumpus about self-service alcohol in Magalluf AIs last year, Barceló seemed surprised. He was then scandalised by the level of apparent drunkenness. And he's the tourism minister.

What tourism worlds do politicians inhabit, because it clearly isn't the one that is right at the coalface of Mallorca's economy-class tourism. Good luck to Barceló with his "regulations" of AI, but what are these going to be? Improving quality standards, we understand. Yes, and the 2012 tourism law already makes provision for this. It's never been enforced and nor has it been made clear what these standards are or should be. Are we going to find out next year? Perhaps so. In which case, will they include staff-guest ratios to ensure no queuing or only short queues? Will they stipulate what's on the menu, what drinks can be served, what type of treatment guests receive?

It's high time that some AIs were brought to account. They cannot be banned because the market will not allow this, but requirements can be made tough enough that the AI model ceases to be viable. If Barceló, as seems evident, wishes to impose tough standards on private accommodation to be rented for holiday purposes, then he should do likewise with the standards of AI. Yes, there are some poor-grade tourists who go to certain economy-class AI hotels, but when they are then treated as poor grade, you get what is too often the case: a vicious circle of unedifying tourism.

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