Monday, March 20, 2017

The Island Of Everlasting Spring

The Balearic Tourism Agency's Better in Winter promotional campaign isn't wholly about winter. Although it doesn't mention summer (well, it wouldn't, would it), the campaign branches out into the two remaining seasons. In actual fact, there is an acknowledgement of summer because there is a slogan lurking which suggests that Mallorca is ideal at any time of the year.

It can appear as if the agency is somewhat confused as to what it is actually promoting. There again, where winter is concerned, the season has long been used as local shorthand for anything which isn't summer; itself defined, confusingly enough, as May to October.

The apparent neglect of spring and autumn comes about purely because of the holiday seasons. There is summer and there is not-summer, aka winter, the one which the agency is insisting is better (however it might actually be defined). There is a coy promotional acknowledgement in being "ideal at any time of the year" that summer does exist: coy because the agency (and tourism ministry and indeed whole regional government) would rather like there to be fewer summer tourists and more winter tourists.

This confusion of seasons (and messages) is currently intended to promote all the wonders of Mallorca which aren't only to be found on a beach and under a blazing July sun. But there is, you may be unsurprised to know, absolutely nothing new with what the tourism agency is saying.

If one goes back to around the end of the 1950s, Mallorca was beginning to enjoy its purely summer sun-and-beach reputation. The boom had yet to really happen, but already there were attempts to diversify tourism across the seasons. The Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board), then responsible for promotion, produced a couple of posters. One, with fishing boats in the foreground and Palma Cathedral in the background, said: "You will also prefer Mallorca in the winter." The other, with a Tramuntana mountain and sea image, announced: "Visit Mallorca at any time of the year."

Nothing has therefore changed, only the political thinking behind promotional campaigns. But even getting on for 60 years ago, the two seasons of spring and autumn found it hard to make their presence known. If one goes back over the decades, there is little which has ever expressly promoted either season. There was one campaign, though, and it wasn't Mallorca-driven. It was by the airline Iberia.

I'm unsure when this campaign was developed. It is quite possible that it coincided with the elimination of visa requirements for US visitors coming to Spain. That was in 1953. The following year, an amendment to international rules for civil aviation, was good news for Spain. Charter planes were permitted. Iberia responded by expanding its fleet principally for transatlantic flights.

The poster for this campaign featured a lady in a swimsuit, an almond tree in early blossom (at least I think that's what it's meant to be), the sea and a plane. The slogan read - "Mallorca, island of everlasting spring" - and yes, it was Mallorca with two l's. This may, I'm guessing, be because it wasn't aimed at the British. (The almond blossom, incidentally, is included in a very similar way to which the artist Erwin Hubert had used it in a scene from the early 1930s.)

Why use spring, though? Well, let's face it you wouldn't promote everlasting autumn or winter. Everlasting summer? Not really no. Spring is a bit farfetched when it is reaching a hundred in mid-summer or when the island is being battered by January winds and drowning under floods, but spring does perhaps lend itself to a more accurate impression of the climate when the year is taken as a whole. On average, the temperatures are springlike.

You may not know that 21 March is World Poetry Day. It marks the start of spring. And in Mallorca this is pertinent. Some of the finest poetry has been inspired by spring, and one of the finest and most famous poems is Miquel Costa i Llobera's El Pi de Formentor, the Pine of Formentor.

Costa i Llobera's pine withstands all seasons and all that can be thrown at it by the weather. It isn't a poem, therefore, about spring as such. The poet loves a tree. He says as much. This tree is older than an olive. It is mightier than an oak. It is greener than an orange. It is the pine and its leaves conserve something. They conserve eternal spring. Eternal or everlasting? Maybe someone at Iberia had read a poem.

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