Saturday, November 05, 2016

What Does The Tourism Promotion Agency Do?

The Balearic Tourism Agency (ATB) is the government agency which markets the Balearics as a tourist destination. Its budget for next year is being cut to 19.5 million euros. Based on recent experience, less than 20% will go on direct promotion, which doesn't mean advertising but does mean travel fairs and other such actions. London's World Travel Market, which starts on Monday, is one of the main items of expenditure. We may well be informed how much is being spent on this annual trip, but if we want to find out from the agency's action plan for 2016, we will be disappointed.

I keep archives of these plans. I went looking for 2016's and couldn't find it. On the agency's website, there is a link to a plan, but it isn't this year's; it's the one for 2015. Perhaps they didn't bother making a plan; so much for transparency. Maybe this had something to do with the revolving door at the agency, which saw the departure of the director who was initially appointed by Biel Barceló (it was said he got a better offer) replaced by an old friend of Barceló's, Pere Muñoz. Who can say?

One has to rely, therefore, on the 2015 plan for information. That showed that the London fair was the third costliest event. The quarter of a million budget was exceeded slightly by the budget for Berlin's ITB and greatly exceeded (by 129,000 euros) by the spend on Madrid's Fitur. Who were they wanting to promote to more? The British, the German or the Spanish market? The latter, it would seem: always well behind the UK and Germany in terms of tourist numbers. 

The total cost of the various fairs and other exercises, such as press trips, was approximately 3.7 million euros. So what exactly was the agency doing - or planning on doing - with the rest of its budget (other than paying staff and advisers)? Well, there were, for example 4.9 million euros set aside for "territory actions", which meant investment in infrastructure. Of these - and there were thirteen of them - there was at least one that wasn't carried out. The second highest budgeted amount (837,000 euros) was for phase B of the boulevard in Playa de Muro. I'm unaware of there having been a phase A let alone B. What happened to the money for that then?

Going back to the budget for travel fairs and other actions, the 2015 plan stated that the market for 66 of them was yet to be determined. In other words, the plan didn't specify in which country 43% of these actions were to be undertaken. A footnote says that these would be determined once requests had been received from Spain's overseas tourism offices. Were they all, in the end, undertaken?

There is a question, therefore, about previous budgets. Was the money used for other purposes, or has it been held over? If there were other purposes, what were they? Is the reduction in the budget for 2017 a reflection of money in reserve? Some explanation would be welcome.

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