Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Legitimising Tourismphobia

You probably won't have heard of the Fundéu BBVA. It is a foundation that was created in 2005 by one of the main news agencies, Efe, and the BBVA bank. Fundéu stands for Fundación del Español Urgente. It coordinates its work with the Real Academia Español, the director of which is the foundation's president. The academy supplies the last word on Spanish usage; its dictionary is of biblical proportions in defining what is correct.

"Urgente" means urgent, but in the context of the foundation it has nuance. Emergent is another meaning. Unlike English, for which words are dreamt up and become common usage without any body truly determining their legitimacy or not, Spanish (like French and other languages) has a form of language arbitration. It is the academy which is the arbiter.

Efe's involvement is key to the purpose of the foundation. The news agency seeks to clarify emergent usage and how it is presented. The foundation has, therefore, issued an edict in respect of one of the new words of the moment. "Turismofobia" is perfectly legitimate usage. Moreover, it is not necessary to place it within quote marks or alternatively to italicise it. Turismofobia is here, because Efe and the foundation have decided that it is.

The anglicisation of this - tourismphobia - has been rarely used. I don't know that I can claim to having been the first to have used it, but in 2011, when I did for the first time, it most certainly was new and seemingly unheard of in English. Six years ago, however, it had emerged in Spanish. And Spain, from what I could ascertain in April last year, was still one of the very few countries to have discovered this phobia. Italy was probably in fact the only other. In that country there has most obviously been the phobia in Venice.

Being Spain, there has to be acknowledgement of separate languages. In Catalan it's the same, save for the substitution of a vowel, but Basque is something else. It is "turismo borroka", and I'm reliably informed that "borroka" means fight as opposed to phobia. The actual meaning isn't especially important; the existence of the term is what is.

The Spanish word is, in a way, somewhat misleading. Regions such as Madrid, Andalusia and the Canaries insist that "turismofobia" isn't present. But it is in Catalan-speaking regions and now also in the Basque Country. Nevertheless, the word is on the lips of many a Castellano speaker, including leading hoteliers and politicians: the national minister for tourism, Alvaro Nadal, regularly refers to it.

Accepted and repeated usage brings with it ever broader awareness and diffusion. Tourismphobia has become a social reality, even if it is impossible to say how deep the phobia is or indeed how widespread it is. But the mere fact of its media legitimacy reflects its presence. And there are those who are only too willing to exploit this presence.

Arran in Mallorca maintain that they are not about tourismphobia. Tourism is not going to disappear, they acknowledge, but it needs to be controlled and regulated. It is causing many problems, just one of which relates to workers. Their conditions need to be improved.

In truth, there aren't many sectors which would disagree with the need to improve conditions, including the hoteliers. But the Arran manifesto of expropriation of this, that and the other is quite plainly ridiculous. What will the workers be doing if a sizable chunk of tourism was to disappear? This manifesto, it needs noting, isn't Arran's. It comes from the political party the group claims not to be formally linked with - the CUP in Catalonia.

The bout of tourismphobia that has been recently witnessed is, in my opinion, as much to do with the politics of the agitating far left as it is with tourism per se. Tourism provides a useful and convenient means through which to express this agitation. There are almost quaint echoes of the chaotic situation during the Second Republic, when anarchists were as crucial to the downfall of the Republic as others. Arran are sort of current-day heirs of that anarchy.

It is no coincidence that the Basques are now in on the act. San Sebastian is a city which has witnessed significant tourism growth in recent years. Similar fears about saturation exist there as they do in Palma, but San Sebastian isn't on the same media radar as Palma or Barcelona. Hence, there is the group Sortu, who want to place it on this radar.

It is Catalans and Basques who are fuelling this phobia, and it has to be seen within the context of independence demands. The CUP isn't an irrelevant party: it has ten seats out of 135 in the Catalonian parliament. It has its agenda and it wants to spread it to Mallorca.  

Tourismphobia, Efe has clarified, is here. The question is whether it is here to stay.

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