Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The End Of Tourism

In 1983 the first Balearic government was formed. In addition to the president, Gabriel Cañellas, and the vice-president, Joan Rotger, there were nine ministers. Two of these ministers had one portfolio only. Jaume Llompart was the interior  minister and Jaume Cladera was the tourism minister. Debate will always be had on such matters, but Cladera is often held up as having been the Balearics best tourism minister. He went into the job holding an advantage that no others since have been able to claim. He was from the tourism industry and had been closely involved with the Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) prior to his being made minister and the tourist board losing most of its role for promoting tourism, something it had been doing for almost eighty years.

Cladera was to remain tourism minister throughout the period of the second Cañellas administration of 1987 to 1991 and into the third, during which he was replaced by Joan Flaquer. Subsequent governments had their tourism ministers, and while there were to be other sole ministerial responsibilities, e.g. for health, tourism stood on its own. From 1983 to 2007 there were ministers who only had responsibility for tourism. No other ministry had such consistency of function.

When the 2007 administration of Francesc Antich came along, the PSOE-Unió Mallorquina-PSM Mallorcan socialist pact combined tourism for the first time. Employment and training were grafted on. The Bauzá government from 2011 changed things. Although Carlos Delgado and then Jaime Martínez also had responsibility for sport, tourism was pretty much restored to how it had previously been. Then came the current government. Biel Barceló is the government vice-president, he is the minister for innovation and research, and he is the minister for tourism.

The Antich PSOE-led government from 1999 hadn't tampered with the previous model, though the strategic importance of tourism for that administration took on a different complexion: Celestí Alomar was the minister who introduced the original ecotax. The two other PSOE pacts have tampered, and there might just be more to come.

Barceló, in announcing the formalisation of procedures to transfer tourism promotion responsibilities to the island councils and the downgrading of the role of the Balearic Tourism Agency, let it slip that he thought that after the 2019 election there might not be a tourism ministry. In other words, tourism would be rolled into another. It might, for example, be how tourism is currently treated by the Council of Mallorca - a subsidiary responsibility under the umbrella of economic affairs and finance.

One of the more extraordinary aspects of the suggestion that tourism will be further diminished at ministerial level is that it seems to have gone almost unnoticed. Yet it would break with 36 years of ministerial and government tradition and would, moreover, be highly symbolic. Barceló, one assumes, said this with one eye on Més and the pact still being in power after the next election. The Partido Popular, one would also assume, would not reduce tourism in the same way. Therefore, can we conclude that the very idea that tourism ceases to be a ministry in its own right and that there is no longer a minister with a specific tourism portfolio is an indication of what this current government really thinks about tourism?

The suggestion is even more extraordinary when one considers the fact that there has been a great deal of pressure placed on the national government to have a minister with sole tourism responsibility. In the Balearics, where in comparative GDP terms tourism is vastly more significant than it is nationally, a tourism minister hasn't just been important, it has been imperative.

One accepts that the island councils are to assume greater powers, but the transfer of these should not mean that the regional government abandons a ministerial function. Tourism is simply too important to be consumed by another ministry. It should not be allowed to become a component of, say, a general industry ministry, as it is an industry that stands apart from and above all other industry. Tourism is the Balearics, the Balearics is tourism, regardless of the attitude of this current government.

With the transfer for powers, one can understand that the current ministry of tourism, innovation and research wouldn't require the same level of budgeting. As things stand, it already has the second lowest budget of all ministries (74 million euros this year). But even stripped down, there is surely enough justification in terms of global planning and organisation to say nothing of coordination nationally and internationally for it to command more than the smallest of all the ministries - that of the presidency (24.6 million euros). 

Here, though, may lie the answer. I long ago once advocated, because of its strategic importance, that tourism should be a direct responsibility of the presidency. The ministry of the presidency and tourism. This government would never sanction such a notion.

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