Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Are Tourist Friends Electric?

For those of you who have ever paid the tourist tax, are you delighted at the results of the deliberations of the judging committee for the impulse of sustainable tourism? Sixty-two finalists had been hewn from hopefuls twice that number and with shopping lists worth more than four times the revenue on offer - for new projects, that is. And when the sixty-two aspirants were paraded before the judging panel, they were all given a prize. There are no losers in the tourist tax competition, except for the sixty who had been given the heave-ho in the prelims.

So, if you have, for instance, spent 49.50 euros (plus VAT) for fourteen nights at a three-star superior for a family of four (one child over sixteen, the other younger) in the past few months, are you satisfied that you may have contributed 0.001% to the cost of "electric mobility", otherwise known as charging-points for electric vehicles? You are satisfied? Well, good for you, and some time in the future you'll be able to use these charging-points when hire cars are all electric or you'll be safe in the knowledge that the bus taking you to your resort from the airport is fully powered by electricity. Gosh, isn't this impulse for sustainable tourism a great thing and a wonder to behold, if you can actually behold it.

All this electric mobility, thanks to the nature of its funding, should require charging-points across the isles (and I suppose we are talking plural because it's only Mallorca that is ever referred to) to have legends emblazoned on them which read "Electric mobility: POWERED BY ECOTAX". Thataway, just in case you have failed to be satisfied, you will become so. "Heavens, so that's where my money goes. Well done, Balearic government, God bless you and thank you. The world is being saved. If only it weren't for all that permafrost being defrosted."

It isn't only you, as tourists, who will be thanking the government. So also will be all those who have been agitating for a dismantling of the tourism economic monoculture. Most curiously, this is a purpose for the tourist tax. Not about tourism but about something else, the Holy Grail of economic diversification. The 4.6 million euros that the judges have decided to lavish on electric mobility will, we are assured, be instrumental in diversifying the economy. Will it be?

To me, this sounds suspiciously like replacing one thing with another. Replacement isn't diversification. The ministers for tourism, innovation and research, land, energy and transport (aka mobility), and industry, trade and employment all suggest that it is diversification. Well, they must know something that you and I don't. Are there to be thousands of jobs created to enable drivers to plug their cars in and which will allow restaurant waiters to abandon the terraces and earn five grand a month, thereby contributing to quality employment?

It's not, I hasten to add, that I am against electric mobility. Quite the contrary. Anything that provides green, clean energy is to be welcomed. But it comes with its own plug-in of spin, which is the case with much of the bull, righteousness, virtuousness and cliché attached in cable form to the sustainable tourism tax. The eco-credentials of the ecotax were being sounded long into the ozone of autumn air as the judges and recipients explained the tourist tax spending verdicts. And there is no greater credential than when "footprints" can be referred to.

Més compatriots, Barceló and Noguera, were both on the footprint trail. The numerous (62 plus eight ongoing from last year) projects, opined the tourism minister, will help to alleviate the eco-unfriendly footprint of tourism (or words to that effect). Quite right. For far too long tourists have been getting away with using petrol for hire cars and relying on coal to power their hotel (and private apartment) air-con systems. Not any more. Our tourist friends are electric, and solar, to boot. 

Palma's mayor, continuing with the narrative of indignation that had endured from the fact that the chief judge - Barceló - had failed to last year give the city any direct tax funding, appeared moderately satisfied. But he was engaged in a battle of the footprints. Palma's tourism footprint is bigger than anyone else's. It's still only getting around five million, some of it to be shared with the neighbours (Llucmajor), but it's better than the 2016 spending zero. How, though, is this giant tourism footprint to be addressed? The odd track in Bellver forest does, I suppose, involve some footprints, but another way is to restore the Torres del Temple. And what, pray, has that got to do with footprints? The place has been crumbling for decades because no one has bothered to spend any money on it.

Still, the restoration will doubtless be welcomed by tourists because of its heritage value. Assuming, that is, they can find anywhere to park having arrived in Palma powered by ecotax.

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