Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The 40-Year-Old Prediction Of Anti-Tourism

George Doxey may not be well known but he is important: where tourism is concerned, that is. Doxey was responsible for devising something that came to be known as Irridex. This might sound like treatment for mosquito bites or liquid for cleaning the loo, but it was an index - the irritation index. Forty-two years ago, George Doxey modelled the rise and fall in a society's affiliation with and affection for tourism. His model is probably only now truly being put to the test.

Think what it was like in 1975. Mallorca already had mass tourism, but it wasn't anything like on the scale it now is. Figures from the time show that in the Balearics as a whole there were around 3.6 million tourists per annum. There were 223,000 hotel places. Mallorca had the lion's share of both. By 2016, the number of tourists for the Balearics was up to more than 13 million. In Mallorca alone, the number of hotel places was around the 300,000 mark. The government wants to cap the total of all places in Mallorca at something over 435,000.

The mass has therefore advanced significantly since the time that Doxey was compiling his index. Also in 1975 there were continuing concerns about a downturn. The effect of the 1973 oil crisis took a few years to reverse. Mass had, for the time being, peaked or was being lowered. It was the year that Franco died. While there had been plenty of comment about and worthy research into the harmful impact of "Balearisation", this was not comment of the streets. Two years later, awareness took to the streets for the first time. Democracy had ushered in protest against the voracity of development, and not just for tourism. The Dragonera demos were staged.

Regardless of this nascent protest, the oil crisis had exercised minds. It disrupted the progression that George Doxey had set out. His was a four-stage model of societal attitudes towards tourism development. By 1975 Mallorca was certainly no longer at stage one - euphoria created by the anticipation of tourism benefits and from meaningful contact with tourists on a grander scale than had been the case prior to the "boom" of the sixties. It was probably somewhere between stages two and three. The second step is apathy, with tourism viewed as a source of income and investment. The third is annoyance - misgivings about the tourism industry because of increasing numbers, development and high levels of foreign investment.

Attitudes were modified because of the realisation of the harmful impact of recession on what by then had become the island's principal industry. Such modified attitudes, it can be argued, have prevailed for years. They would certainly have been around during the economic crisis that took hold in 2008.

Now, however, one can witness the presence of Doxey's fourth and final stage. Antagonism is defined as irritations with tourism being expressed verbally and physically. Politeness gives way to this antagonism. Tourists are seen as the cause of the problem. How prophetic Doxey had been.

There is another model, one that is far better known than Doxey's. It deals with the economics of tourism. Richard W. Butler produced his model five years after Doxey had come up with his. It was essentially a variation on the product life cycle model that business was already familiar with. Butler's model can be combined with Doxey's. The fourth stage of antagonism coincides with Butler's fifth stage of stagnation and potential decline. Implicit to Butler's stagnation are the ideas that tourist numbers have reached their peak, that capacity has in fact been exceeded, that tourism creates problems for the environment and society (and possibly also for the economy), that tourist resorts engender a sense of divorce from their realities - residents feel alienated, therefore.

None of this is earth-shattering insofar as Butler (Doxey less so) is tourism studies 101. Anyone who has ever taken a tourism course knows about Butler. Anyone in tourism industry management knows about him. Anyone in tourism government should know about him. The caveat of "should" is key. Butler and Doxey require the strategic management of tourism. Governments have singularly failed to do this. All the theory was established decades ago. Only now are governments waking up to the practical consequences.

The economic crisis, like the oil crisis of the seventies, was a blip. As it abated and the mass of tourism grew in comparative terms like never before, Doxey's antagonism began to kick in. One can chastise the Balearic government for its handling of tourism policy, but underlying this is (or seems to be) an appreciation of both Butler and Doxey. In order to prevent decline, there needs to be rejuvenation, even if this means a downward correction in the numbers of tourists. Magalluf, it might be said, is a stuttering attempt at this. Managing antagonism, however, is a different matter altogether.

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