Friday, September 15, 2017

The Curious Advocacy Of Tourist Wealth

How much should the tourist tax be per night? The maximum rate in the Balearics as from next year will be four euros. This is for four-star superior and five-star accommodation. These are the hotels where the rich go, though defining richness isn't easy. There are "well-off" folk who travel five star, but they're not in the rich class.

The Netherlands is a country with a reputation for pragmatism and tolerance. Its capital Amsterdam reflects this, its famous red light district as much as anything. For many tourists, so it is said, the red light district is where they go. If they spend money, then they spend it there. The city's restaurants, it is noted, don't benefit to the extent that they should, which is surprising given the volume of rental accommodation. Though the city is addressing this by restricting the number of days that properties can be available for rental.

Amsterdam, as with other European cities, attracts an enormous number of tourists. Like those other cities (and also with resorts) there are tourists who are valuable to the local economy, those who are less valuable and those who aren't of any value. The latter category can in fact create a negative balance. Their contribution, such as it may be, is less than an approximated cost of having them use services. In addition, they add to a perception or to the fact of overcrowding without giving something or giving enough in return.

There is talk in Amsterdam of increasing the tourist tax. A figure of ten euros per night is being discussed. And it is being referred to as a deterrent tax, though deterrence would owe a lot to how long a tourist stays. Two or three nights? Thirty euros? Would it be that much of a deterrence? Resorts are different. Tourists stay longer in resorts than they do in cities.

Dutch tolerance, where tourists are concerned, seems to have been stretched to the limits. Which is why this tolerance is evaporating. A tourist tax rate of ten euros, deterrent or not, would be discriminatory; it would discriminate on the grounds of personal wealth.

There are parts of Europe, Switzerland is a good example, where tourism is expensive with or without any taxes. If you ever look at price comparisons for hotels, you will often find that Switzerland is, generally speaking, more expensive than other countries. The Swiss have never encouraged a low-contributing style of tourism. Historically it has always been a country for the wealthy visitor.

Switzerland has some relevance to Mallorca. When the founding fathers of tourism at the turn of the twentieth century were seeking to shape their new industry, Switzerland was a model that they were able to consider, as was the French Riviera. Here were places where tourism genuinely existed and they were the preserves of the wealthy of Europe (and the USA).

The Assemblea 23-S, the grouping that will stage the "massification" demonstration, has alluded to those days. They were ones, once tourism started to develop in Mallorca, when only the rich could afford to travel. Only the rich had time on their hands. The rich didn't have to worry about the non-existence of paid holidays. Accordingly, Mallorca built hotels that were for this wealthy class. Yes, there were pensions but by and large, and into the 1950s, the tourism infrastructure was designed for the wealthy European who didn't travel in enormous numbers.

There seems to be a desire, here in Mallorca, in Amsterdam and elsewhere to turn the clock back. That tourism of the rich was in a sense the legacy of the Grand Tour, when only aristocratic young men (less so women) broadened their cultural horizons and paid good money for doing so.

This desire is not solely the preserve of the left but predominantly it is. In this respect it a curious philosophy. The tourism agitators in Mallorca seek to defend (with legitimacy) the earnings and conditions of the working class, though how defensible this would be, were tourism-sector employment to decline, isn't too clear. The island's working class is defended, but what about the working class from elsewhere? There is an absence of brotherhood in the demands of the Mallorcan left. There is also a total forgetfulness. The British working class first came to Mallorca thanks to the British Workers Travel Association, which was linked to the Labour Party. The Holiday Pay Act of 1948 was to help.

Vladimir Raitz, the founder of Horizon, considered tourism in socialist terms. A holiday for the ordinary man, woman and family. A holiday to open up experience of other cultures. A holiday to assist in the pursuit of post-war peace and tolerance.

Those were times when ideals as much as business were important. Times obviously change and they do so in curious ways. A left-wing advocacy of the rich. How odd.

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