Monday, June 05, 2017

Fairs And The Victory Of Tourism Over Industry

In the annals of the Fomento del Turismo, the Mallorca Tourist Board, there is a 1962 reference to one Bartomeu Sagrera Escalas and to his having talked about a fair. He was, from what I can make out, the delegate in the Balearics for the national trade ministry as well as having been a member of the tourist board. The fair in question was held in the autumn of that year. It was the Feria de Muestras.

The word muestra can have different meanings, but in this context it is probably most satisfactorily translated as exhibition. This fair of exhibitions was a trade fair, one designed in part to show off Mallorca's industry, such as it was. By 1962, the island's industrial base was in decline. Tourism was beginning the process that eventually killed much of it off.

Mallorca's move from a primary economy, one based almost solely on agriculture, had started to gather pace in the final quarter of the nineteenth century. The secondary economy was to bring, for example, textiles, chemicals and leather products. In the early 1950s, it is estimated that around 35% of the population worked in factories that were producing the likes of chemicals. In the following decade, the labour force changed markedly. An example of the decline in textiles can be seen in Pollensa. The ruined Can Morató factory, closed since 1960, was once a significant manufacturer and exporter of carpets. Chemicals factories closed down, while the leather trade was undermined by lack of investment.

Although tourism and the tertiary economy was the coming thing, it was recognised that Mallorca shouldn't be allowed to become dependent on a mono-economic culture. It had been when agriculture was dominant. And that had meant risks because of weather and pests. The devastation of the vineyards in the 1890s was evidence of the latter.

In the '60s, there was to be an effort, as with the creation of Spain's first industrial estate, Son Castelló in Palma, to try and ensure a diverse economy. Although the estate was to be a success, the lack of diversification is a theme one hears too often today. The Feria de Muestras was therefore another effort. But by 1974, they had given up holding a fair. Tourism had well and truly triumphed and had taken construction along with it for the ride.

The desire for economic diversity can be seen from the fact that for the second fair there was an expanded name. It was the Feria de Muestras, Artesania y Turismo. And it was to be moved to a different time of the year. Weirdly, one would suggest, it used to start in June and run for more than two weeks into early July. One says weird because summer is not generally considered to be the best time to hold such a fair.

But June it was. The banner for the 1966 fair (18 June to 3 July) shows a steel cog and what one guesses is supposed to represent an airplane. The fair was held in Palma's Sa Feixina park. In 1967, there were some 200 stands for its sixth staging. During it, there was another type of fair. Between 23 and 25 June, the fourth World Gastronomy Congress was held. There was a cocktail do at Bellver Castle, a gala dinner at the newly opened Palacio de Congresos in the Pueblo Español and a special breakfast and lunch at Pollensa's Hotel Formentor, with invites given out by the national minister for information and tourism, Manuel Fraga.

Gastronomy is nowadays looked upon as a key niche in the tourism sector. The coinciding of the gastronomy congress and the fair fifty years ago demonstrates that it was considered an aspect of tourism even back then. It certainly wasn't a complement to industry.

In 1971, the "muestras" were dropped from the title of the fair. It had become shorter, so between 19 and 29 June there was the first Feria Nacional de Artesanía y Turismo de Palma de Mallorca. Three years on, and the fair was no more. Artisan work was also in retreat. It has of course rebounded to such an extent that today no fair worth its salt doesn't have an artisan element.

Tourism no longer needed to be lumped in with other sectors. It had become the be all and end all. Where fairs or congresses were concerned, this was confirmed in 1973. More sensibly, the timing had shifted to the autumn. In November of that year, ABTA held its convention at the auditorium in Palma. DRV, the German equivalent of ABTA, was to follow. Tourism was international and it was Mallorca's industry.

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