Friday, June 02, 2017

My Backyard Is Not Your Backyard

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine posted a little story on Facebook. I should point out that this friend has a stature not too dissimilar to that of a rugby prop forward. His story concerned an unfortunate tourist (young, male, British, drunk), who for some reason had clambered over the wall into his yard. This was at night. My friend, who has a wife and four children, didn't take too kindly to this intrusion. No questions were asked. The tourist had chosen the wrong yard and the wrong occupant. His photo accompanied the story. Matey boy didn't appear to be too happy. He would have been less happy when the police arrived.

The moral of the story is, of course, not to go invading people's property. Whatever his intention had been, the tourist discovered to his cost that it isn't wise to enter someone's yard without permission. Maybe he had needed to go to the toilet. Maybe so. There was obviously still no excuse.

There's another little story. Unlike the above tale, which was in Alcudia, this one concerns Magalluf. A photo with this second story shows a tourist having a leak on some garden at an apartments' building in the resort. This was not a tourist apartments' building (though these days you can never be sure), it was a residential block. Chummy in the photo is just one who has apparently been availing himself of toilet facilities at the apartments. At least he was urinating outside.

In Arenal, those in need of relief are tending to be civilised enough to use the beach, though pavements, doorways and what have you can also come in useful. The nightly peeing is the tinkling that is the accompaniment to the crescendos of noise, to the piles of abandoned bottles which are left scattered on the beach and to the cries of the nighttime drunks. Never let it be said that education has anything to do with decent behaviour. These drunks are the spring breakers, the students, in Arenal at present, from the UK and Germany. The local residents, sick to the back teeth of this in past years, sick to the back teeth of the mess, the lack of police, the lack of town hall action, have had enough. The beach and the front line may not directly be their backyard, but they live there. 

These three stories point to an inherent tension and conflict in tourism. There have always been drunk tourists. There have always been loud, messy, disrespectful, poorly behaved tourists. But the greater the overall number of tourists, the greater the number of the badly behaved. Magalluf may claim to be transforming itself, but hell may well freeze over before individuals cease using someone's backyard for peeing in. The drive towards a more up-market tourist should eradicate problems, as the mayor of Calvia believes. Yet even the up-market is known to take the odd drink too many.

Apologists will argue that one chooses to live where there are great numbers of tourists. There should therefore not be complaints of nimbyism. Tourists can come but they can't urinate in my backyard. Such an argument is absurd. If there is residential property where there are tourists, then people will live in that property. They are entitled to feel that there should be some respect for their rights and for their own peace and quiet.

The relationship between resident and tourist is uneasy because of the very nature of resorts. There is perhaps an argument that when resorts were being planned (and there was precious little coherence in the planning), there should have been a form of real-estate apartheid. Here is an area for tourists, here is one for residents. Ne'er the twain would the two need to intermingle, so ne'er would a tourist wee in a backyard.

But in sociological terms, tourism was long ago predicated on the notion of cultural exchange and experience. Separation of the local population from tourists would not have facilitated this. It would in any event have been implausible from an urban planning point of view to have realised such separation. There are specific instances of it, less so in Europe, more so in other parts of the world, but tourism planning has generally adhered to the principle of cultural exchange through side-by-side accommodation, mainly because it would have been impractical to try and avoid it.

The overwhelming majority of tourists are of course respectful. The problem lies with those who are not, and it is at its greatest when there is mass invasion of one's backyard, as is the case in Arenal (which is not alone). Vladimir Raitz, one of the fathers of mass tourism, believed in cultural exchange. He was later responsible for Club 18-30, though not as it was to become. Before he died, he said he was appalled. He had inadvertently bequeathed the backyard.

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