Thursday, July 06, 2017

Targeting All-Inclusives Doesn't Stop Drunkenness

They've been fighting again in Arenal. Germans, that is. One was knocked unconscious during a scrap that took place around half two in the afternoon. The incident may well have been missed unless one was looking at the Spanish or German media. Arenal, Playa de Palma don't register like Magalluf does. Had the location been Maga, had the protagonists been Britons, you wouldn't hear the end of it.

Not of course that the local politicians aren't aware of fighting in Arenal. These politicians are very much aware of Arenal (Playa de Palma) and Magalluf. They are the only resorts they are aware of. There is political capital to be had from both.

When politicians wish to be seen to be getting tough with drunken tourism, they show their interest and displeasure in these two resorts. They ignore all others. There is political capital and there is media capital, even if the British have no real interest in Arenal and the Germans feel likewise when it comes to Magalluf.

The Balearic government, bless it, is going to tackle drunken tourism (and its related incidents, such as fighting). The government will do this by introducing measures to curb access to so much free booze in all-inclusives. At a stroke, therefore, it is wishing to make itself popular among the locals, who despair of both drunkenness and all-inclusives (as well as Magalluf and Playa de Palma), by combining the two in a package of apparent toughness.

There was a revealing photo with a report of the brawl in Arenal. It showed a group of young tourists (presumably German) with a container of alcoholic beverages. This container was on the beach. Many were the bottles. There was a second photo. A young tourist (again, one assumes he was German) was seated on a bench. He had just vomited on the ground.

There have been other revealing photos, such as ones for Magalluf when drunkenness and fighting rear their ugly heads, i.e. every day. What was so revealing about these photos? The clue lies with the first photo. Can you figure it out? Remember that the government is drawing the strands of drunkenness and all-inclusives together. Are you getting warmer?

If not, let me explain. The photo with the container of bottles would have been taken some time in the afternoon. At precisely the sort of time when inmates of an all-inclusive would be getting legless. In their all-inclusive. Not on a beach. The other photos (as was the case with the first one) have one absent thing in common: wristbands, i.e. all-inclusive hotel wristbands.

If you are drunkenly availing yourself of an all-inclusive's alcohol, you would not take a sizable container full of bottles purchased from the nearest supermarket to the beach. If you are not availing yourself, then you would. The clues are obvious in these various photos. Tourists get drunk because they get drunk. Not because they stay at all-inclusives. The photographic evidence is clear in this regard.

Yes of course there is drunkenness at all-inclusives (certain ones, the economy-class ones). And if the government wishes to reduce this drunkenness brought about by the all-inclusive booze, then fine. But targeting this in-hotel booze is no remedy when a particular class of tourist just wants to get drunk. The government is missing the point.

And what, in any event, will happen if all-inclusives have restrictions placed on them? The nearest bars will sense an opportunity. Come outside the hotel, and drink as much as you can with us, they'll advertise. Though of course the government (or let's say Calvia town hall where Magalluf is concerned) is attempting to stop bars from doing cheap deals. If the bars can't do this, then the supermarkets will gladly take up the challenge.

The point isn't being missed entirely, however. The government also wants tour operators to stop bringing drunken tourists: Palma's new mayor, Antoni Noguera, call this breed "junk tourists". And will the tour operators grant the government its wish? Will they hell. For all their grand words about responsibility (normally of a sustainable, eco-style), the tour operators (the large ones) don't give a toss who they sell holidays to. When their businesses are as vertically integrated as they are, then of course they don't care. Volume has to be sold: both beds and airline seats.

The government can ask, but it won't get anywhere. The tour operators even openly admit that there is a market for the type of tourist who just wants to come and get drunk. But by saying it will get tough on all-inclusives, it can demonstrate (it will believe) that it is determined to root out the problem. Pilar Carbonell, the tourism director-general, says that the tourism law is to be modified in order to introduce restrictions. Ah yes, Pilar, whose grasp of her role was summed up when she once came to Alcudia and seemed totally ignorant of the existence of the island's largest all-inclusive (Bellevue) and of certain practices that all-inclusives adopt.

But then there's no political capital in Alcudia, a reflection of which was the complete refusal of her ministry to take any notice of communications regarding Spanish students at Bellevue. Among the latest of these was a group which decided to trample on a car and dent its roof (captured on video). An isolated incident, claimed the organisers, studiously ignoring town hall complaints in previous years about students vandalising town hall property.

Incidents, you see, are only ever isolated. Like the fight in Arenal. Which is nonsense put out by the police, as the residents maintain. If these incidents were only ever isolated, then why would anyone wish to legislate against drinking or against a class of tourist?

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