Sunday, September 24, 2017

Anti-Tourism: Is It All About Palma?

So, they held the demo against so-called tourist "massification" in Palma yesterday. You would expect a major demo - around fifty associations/organisations and perhaps some 5,000 people (in the end more like 3,000) - to be in Palma and not elsewhere. But is all this anti-tourism stuff essentially a Palma-driven thing?

Around and about in Alcudia and Pollensa there is no sense at all of any anti-tourism sentiment. This doesn't mean that people don't have misgivings, but manifestations of this sentiment are absent. There will be at least two groups from the local area taking part this evening - the Alternativa per Pollença party and Moviment Alcudienc - but then everywhere on the island has similar types of political party or local protest organisations. At least with the Alternativa one can say that it has been consistent in its views of over many years, which have been to defend quality of life and the environment, to challenge some at times daft policy and to attack corruption and lack of transparency. The Alternativa was pretty much like Podemos before Podemos was ever heard of.

Most of us can probably point to examples of "massification" or saturation. Cycling in the spring is one such. It causes a whole load of people to get aereated, it does make the roads more difficult, but on balance it is positive. The general level of traffic is another as are the resultant difficulties with parking. This is perhaps most evident in Playa de Muro - Section 2, the part from the bridge to the forest. In years gone by the numbers of parked cars used to only ever reach saturation point on Sundays. Now, there is saturation mostly every day in high summer.

So, there are examples and there will be gripes, but is all this protesting nevertheless mainly a phenomenon that has emanated and is emanating from Palma? That is where the most important politicians gather, it is where half of the island's population live, it is where they have views on things which aren't the same to those in the "part forana".

Alcudia has the odd cruise ship, but so few are they and so low are the overall passenger numbers that they have no impact at all. In Palma, of course, it's a different matter. It might be recalled that it was cruise ships which were a major factor in sparking off all the saturation discussion - saturation of Palma, nowhere else.

The strains being placed on accommodation are a potential source of anti-tourism sentiment. It was no great surprise to learn this week that Pollensa has the highest number of illegal rental places per head of population (as advertised on Airbnb) in the whole of Spain. It was more of a surprise to discover that Alcudia ranks fourth. Those adverts will now of course be fewer. Palma, as in the government, has seen to it that this should be so. By and large I agree with Palma for once. If a proper balance is restored between residential and tourist accommodation, then the government is right. The trouble is of course that the government has gone too far and seriously risks jeopardising tourism and related businesses: far less so in Alcudia because of the hotel capacity, much more so in Pollensa.

And this is the nub of the issue. Whatever Palma thinks, however Palma acts, it can seem blind to the fact that municipalities such as Alcudia and Pollensa are so dependent on tourism. One understands demands for less dependence, for greater economic diversification - and God knows, I've made enough of them myself over the years - but Palma appears to wish to deem, through rhetoric and regulation, what is good to satisfy the ideologies of its politicians but which is prejudicial to other communities.

The demo took place. There were demands for "de-growth" and what have you. But notwithstanding the presence of the Alternativa and the Moviment, it was still Palma's demo, an expression of aloof separatism which is unrecognisable with the realities of our local communities in the north of the island.

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