Thursday, December 22, 2016

Arguing Over Little: Tourism Promotion

The regional government, in other words PSOE and Més, has fought off the budgetary challenge of Podemos and will stick to its spending for tourism promotion in 2017 - all of 3.6 million euros. Podemos had wanted the bulk of this budget (three million) to be devoted to the innovation and research part of Biel Barceló's ministry. The government parties were having none of this. Toni Reus of Més, a former mayor of Santa Margalida, said that the spending was targeted at precisely the objectives that Podemos had accepted in drawing up the agreement for government with PSOE and Més - such as cultural and gastronomy tourism and tackling tourism seasonality. Damià Borràs of PSOE told Podemos that the promotion will assist in extending the tourism season and therefore workers' contracts.

While Més, some elements within it at any rate, may be characterised as being sympathetic to the tourist limits or tourist reduction camp, this was not what came across during the debate on the promotion budget. Laura Camargo of Podemos insisted that her party was the only one that was wishing to "put a brake" on the number of tourists. As for tackling seasonality, this will be like "pouring petrol on the fire", she argued. "We do not want more tourists in summer or in winter." She then went on to say that after eight months of work during the season, workers were exhausted. They shouldn't now have to be called on to work in the winter as well.

Of Camargo's remarks, one might observe that workers who have put in eight-month stints are the lucky ones, and while it is undeniable that many workers in the tourism industry work long hours, why should it be deemed acceptable that they should not work more than eight months? This is the conclusion one draws from what Camargo was saying, and it is a conclusion which reinforces the skewed basis of the Balearic economy: work for x number of months and put your feet up for y months of the year, hopefully with sufficient benefit to see you through. Does she not also appreciate that there are workers who disappear in winter and look for and find work where there is a winter season, e.g. the Canaries? Not all of them are exhausted.

Podemos wanted the money to go towards innovation and research because the party believes that this will assist in creating the much-spoken-about changed economic model, one that is more diversified, less reliant on tourism and spreads wealth more evenly. But PSOE and Més want the same thing. Any political party with a modicum of common sense would want this. The difference with Podemos, or so it seems, is that this change can be brought about by diminishing the main sector of the islands' economic activity, which is plainly wrongheaded. The more that tourism is buoyant, the more it generates wealth and revenue for the government. Not all of this wealth is ploughed back or shared through decent salaries with the general workforce - that is a rightful beef - but much of it is and so can, with the right political and financial management, be targeted at diversification.

The announcement of a new Balearic stand for travel fairs will doubtless therefore have caused convulsions within Podemos. The promotional spend, such as it is, goes in great part towards travel fairs, and the new stand (its design at any rate) was revealed earlier this week. Its maiden appearance will be at Madrid's Fitur fair in January.

The Balearic Tourism Agency describes this as conveying a "fresher and more Mediterranean" image, and the message it will be helping to get across will be one aimed at tackling both seasonality and summer season "saturation". The slogan will be "best in winter", with emphasis being placed - you won't be surprised to learn - on gastronomy, culture and heritage. 

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