Friday, August 04, 2017

Condemn The Silence: Anti-Tourist Attacks

So, where exactly were certain politicians and associations on Wednesday? The news had broken on Tuesday about the Arran anti-tourist attack in Palma on 22 July, but the response was silence. During Wednesday morning I trawled through Twitter and the accounts of Biel Barceló; David Abril (one of the most prominent tourism spokespeople in Més); Més itself; Podemos; Aurora Jhardi of Podemos in Palma; Antoni Noguera, the mayor of Palma; GOB; Terraferida. Not one single mention. When the government finally put up the director-general of tourism, Pilar Carbonell, to make an utterance, she was hardly enraged. Yes, the government rejected the attack, but to then witter on about the need for social and economic balance (which the government is seeking) really didn't cut it.

Was everyone on holiday? Well, Barceló wasn't. He was in the midst of a media interview. Snatches of this appeared on his Twitter account. The holiday rentals' bill will bring guarantees for all those involved; the island councils have been given time for rentals' zoning; the number of tourist places will be controlled ... . Blah, blah, blah. How many more times does he need to say this? Meanwhile, where Arran were concerned, zilch.

Another question that needs asking is: why was this attack with confetti and flares on a restaurant in Palma not mentioned before? It only came to light because Arran made it come to light. More than a week had elapsed. Did no one know about it? The police certainly did, as also did the restaurant manager, various restaurant guests, and undoubtedly a whole host of others, including the owners of boats that were also affected. Palma's Moll Vell is hardly a quiet little backwater.

One has to assume that the town hall was aware of what happened. Was it silent because it didn't wish to draw attention, fearing harm to Palma's tourist image? That is possible, but once it was known about, there needed to be a swift and stern response. There wasn't.

Barcelona town hall had been likewise reticent with regard to the Arran attack on a sightseeing bus. Stung by critical media comment and another attack - the slashing of the tyres of bikes for tourist hire - it suddenly sprang into life, announcing "zero tolerance". Meanwhile in Palma.

Arran are a very, very minority group. Previously, they have been known for attacks against the monarchy, such as the burning of a photo of the King in Palma last December. They have now latched on, in opportunist fashion, to tourism. They are seeking publicity, quite obviously so. They can be ignored for being juvenile irritant idiots, but publicity-seeking by small minorities has the potential of assuming greater significance. Arran's interventions have meant an escalation of so-called "tourismphobia". They as an organisation may be rejected by virtually everyone, but that doesn't make them or the sentiment go away. The failure of the town hall and government (and others) to have issued a forceful condemnation on Wednesday merits as much condemnation as the attack itself.

In business, they refer to crisis management and the process of communications for dealing with PR disasters. The government and the town hall have no such process. Arran can be exaggerated and will be exaggerated, but this doesn't mean silence. It means dealing with negative PR. Questions must be asked of the lamentable lack of crisis management, and these questions become even more pressing as other regional governments - Andalusia, Madrid, Valencia - have all had their say about events. So, why not President Armengol or Vice-President (and tourism minister) Barceló?

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