Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tourists Feel Saturated Too

If it weren't for all the other damn tourists ... . It's one thing to ask the locals if they feel overwhelmed and saturated by a massification of vast tourist hordes. It's another to ask tourists the question and for them to say much the same. Yes, I feel saturated, and do you know what? I'm part of the problem. The response does at least suggest some self-awareness, one guesses.

Our friends at the Gadeso Foundation have been out and about surveying once more. They asked tourists - 500 of them (margin of error 4.5%; level of confidence 95.5%) - what they thought about saturation. They were asked if there were more tourists than before. Or at least the 32% who had been to the Balearics were asked. And of them, 74% said yes, there were many more than before. By my calculation, that is 118.4 tourists who say that there are more tourists than before, but let's not quibble as there is an acceptable margin of error.

Given that there were 340 tourists who either hadn't been to the Balearics previously or didn't know if they had (yes, two per cent, i.e. ten of them, didn't know), how can one judge the finding that 84% of them felt that there was saturation on the beaches of the islands? What were they judging against?

There were also 64% who felt that roads and car parks were saturated and 48% who thought bars and restaurants were. This latter finding was good news for those in Mallorca's hostelry business: the summer has been fantastic because 48% were implying that they couldn't find a table. Notwithstanding this discovery, there will be any number of bar/restaurant owners who will maintain that summer 2016 was nothing special: there'll probably be a survey to discover what the percentage was (within an acceptable margin of error of course).

Having found that 74% of those who had been before thought that there were many more tourists and that 19% believed that there were some more, 58% were in favour of a form of limit being placed on themselves. There are far too many of us, opined 32%. We must be limited. A lower percentage - 21% - wanted themselves to be limited but only in certain places. The other five per cent were in favour of being limited but believed it was impractical to have limits.

So, what do we conclude from all this? Certain politicians will feel vindicated; those who say that tourists feel the locals' pain and sense of saturation as well. Others will feel that they are on the right tracks when talking about the need for limits to tourism numbers. After all, 58% of tourists (within a margin of error of 4.5%) can't be wrong.

As a snapshot of opinion, which is as much as such a survey can ever be, the findings are quite revealing. Are they surprising? Not necessarily, as there has been evidence over a number of years that visitors find Mallorca too built-up. That doesn't equate to saturation but is an indication as to the potential.

But are the findings particularly reliable? Market researchers would say that they are, but what we aren't told is anything about where tourists were from, where they were staying, what type of accommodation they were in, whether they had a hire car; all that sort of thing. And as there were also 66% (at least) who hadn't been before, the findings are questionable. Answers by all the 100% are subjective in any event, but only 32% have a degree of objectivity based on previous experience.

There again, the replies are likely to be more objective than those of the locals. The great majority of tourists won't have been exposed to all the saturation talk, whereas the locals have been and are therefore likely to have their perceptions influenced by all the talk.

The survey also asked about the tourist tax. The findings here are less open to past experiences (or not) of Mallorca and so less questionable. Almost three-quarters (74%) believed that the tax is positive. A mere six per cent viewed it as negative. This will definitely be music to Biel Barceló's ears. And this positivity wasn't reflected in whether visitors knew about the tax or not. Over half said they did before going on holiday, eighteen per cent were still unaware of it when asked the question (they hadn't been charged it), while 27% found out on arrival.

There is even more support for the government when it comes to how the tax should be spent: 55% said the environment. And would the tax deter visitors from returning? Absolutely not, said 56%, while 27% thought it was unlikely. A mere 2% were adamant they wouldn't be coming back.

Yes, there's saturation. Yes, there should be limits (possibly). Yes, the tourist tax is great. Tourists have spoken. Within a margin of error.

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