Sunday, January 01, 2017

Culture, Anger And Tourist Tax: Top Stories From 2016

Google very kindly make available statistics of the number of individual page views that each blog post receives. These are direct views in that they are to the specific URL of the post rather than having been read by regular followers of the blog. They are an indication of popularity, although I wouldn't say they were the best; my personal opinion of the diversity of subjects that appear on the blog would give a different result.

This caveat aside, the story that proved to be the most popular was that of 17 September, Promoting Culture: Where's The Strategy? This was about an agreement between the tourism and culture ministries - a "protocol", as they liked to call it - to promote cultural tourism. This required an investment of 600,000 euros to internationalise the islands' culture via a "tourism strategy". I was scathing of the whole thing, not least because an aspect of this strategy is supposedly to push filming on the islands. The relevant ministers, Biel Barceló and Ruth Mateu, admitted that there aren't the necessary tax incentives to do this, as there are in other parts of Spain. So they were going ahead with a "strategy" without having the wherewithal to implement it. Moreover, the "protocol" only lasts until the end of 2017. Could anyone make any sense of it, I asked. PR nonsense was my conclusion, and we haven't heard anything about it since September.

Number two was from 21 July - A Camel To Design A Camel: Tourist Tax. The introduction read: "How many government departments, local authorities, business associations, unions and others does it take to change the cash collected from the tourist tax into meaningful projects?" One camel was therefore the Commission for the Promotion of Sustainable Tourism, the body which decides how revenue is to be spent. The other was the tax itself with its ill-defined multi-purposes. As things were to turn out, the government used the drought as the justification (not unreasonably) to place emphasis on water projects. We are still waiting, though, to hear what these (and other) projects actually are. When there's a commission with such camel-like ingredients, should this come as any surprise?

In third place was the article about Balearic hotel interests in Cuba - Keep Taking Us To Havana, 1 December - while just behind in fourth spot was the post of 2 May, When Anger Takes Over: Mallorca And Cycling. This was prompted by the general chaos caused by the Mallorca 312 cycle event, which isn't a race as such but a trial. As I noted, it was a trial that "tested the over 4,000 cyclists and tested the patience of many people on the island". The event brought to a head the simmering (and not so simmering) conflict created by cycling. The value and benefit of cycling to Mallorca seems irreconcilable with attitudes of residents. Whether these attitudes are shared by a majority, one doesn't know. Perhaps they should undertake a survey rather than rely on social-media hysteria.

Chaos of a different sort came in at number five - More On Vueling And The Chaotic Spanish Air Industry, 16 July. At six was a subject that crept ever higher up the agenda in 2016. The Pariah Status Of Airbnb from 11 November noted that Airbnb didn't exhibit at London's World Travel Market, despite it being "arguably the most important business in the travel market right at the moment". This was the context for a discussion of the need for the regional government "to take tough and effective action against Airbnb and other such sites". Just how tough will be revealed when the holiday rentals' legislation is approved. Whether it will be effective is a totally different matter.

There was further anger on 23 April. Getting Angry In Puerto Pollensa (number seven) said that "emotions have been allowed to run high; rather too high". They were to do with the pedestrianisation fiasco and the Gelats Valls ice-cream kiosk. There was of course to be even more anger because of the separate fiasco of the sun loungers.

At eight was a tribute to a web-based business which doesn't attract the concerns surrounding Airbnb. Hotelbeds: The Best Of Mallorca from 14 July looked at this successful business, sold by Tui for a fortune, which is headquartered on Palma's Paseo Marítimo. There was a coincidence with this article. Although not the same type of business, Hotelbeds does have some similarity with Low Cost Holidays, which went belly up a few days later.

In ninth spot was The Mess Of Regulating Holiday Rentals, 21 May. "The regional government is getting itself into a right old pickle over holiday rentals' regulation" was the introduction to an article on the difficulties regarding legislation. The pickle has become increasingly pickled, what with the idea to zone Mallorca and the intention to allocate places for holiday rentals that don't coincide with areas of high residential need. The government's problems are such that it ignored the fact, as stated in the May article, that the sustainable tourism tax law mandated it to have regulation in place within six months of that law having been approved: it should have been at the end of September therefore.

And in tenth place was The Environmental Crisis Coming Our Way of 17 May. This quoted a spokesperson from the environmentalists GOB who said that this will be "a crazy year, the infrastructure will not cope". Was it all environmentalist hot air? The prognosis was for: "airport stretched beyond its limit; Palma crowded out by ships and passengers; roads chockful of hire cars; ever more thousands of apartments being rented out; the hotels full; limits needing to be placed on the numbers on unspoiled beaches; supermarket supplies questionable; water supplies threatened; outdated sewage-treatment plants incapable of taking the pressure. Too many planes, too many ships, too many cars, too many people." 2017 will be no different.

There was in fact an eleventh post. It had the second highest number of page views but it wasn't a story, just a very short and simple post. It was the one to say that, after a few days of downtime when the Blogger system changed and I couldn't post, I was back. Heartening, I guess.

No comments: