Friday, November 10, 2017

The Being Of Sustainability

In terms of the existential, it might well be argued that William Shakespeare stole a march on Kierkegaard and Sartre. To be or not to be. The question is whether there has ever been a more existential question. While actors have adopted different interpretations of the soliloquy, others have merely pondered the meaning. And within the ranks of the latter, we now have the Balearic government, for it has called upon the services of the Prince of Denmark to enable us all to ponder the meaning of the sustainable tourism tax. To be or not be. This most definitely is the question. And the answer is "sustainable". "I choose to be sustainable," declares a voiceover actor, who is not Hamlet, for the actor is a she.

I was recently bemoaning the fact that the government had not published a full list of projects on which tourist tax revenue for 2017 will be spent. Well, it now has. And this list appears on a new website - Here we can find out exactly what the money is being spent on and how much. Moreover, we can discover the answer to Hamlet's question, for the government has very thoughtfully supplied a brief video that reveals all. To be or not to be. The choice of being sustainable is reinforced by images of cycling, diving and hiking and also by the announcement of "your vacations, your islands, your support".

The next question is - will this convince tourists who are sceptical about handing over what the website fails to inform us will not be two euros per day for five-star and four-star superior hotels as from next year? It will be four euros. Let's trust that someone remembers to update the website, as the rates quoted are the current ones. The omens aren't necessarily strong in suggesting that someone will remember. And why? Well, the website is a little shoddy. Thrown together, you might say. Little thought applied. There are the errors, such as projects spelt "projectes", training spelt "trainig", Agency (as in the Balearic Tax Agency) spelt "Ageny".

Then there are the projects (projectes) themselves and which "entity" is responsible for them. One of these entities is an institution listed as "Mallorca City Hall". Now, as far as I'm aware, and I fancy you can back me up on this, Mallorca isn't a city. There once was a city known as Palma de Mallorca, but the town hall of Palma de Mallorca decided that it would no longer be Palma de Mallorca. It is now simply Palma, deprived of Mallorca, its own individual island in the sun. The Mallorca City Hall is in fact Palma town hall. So why not say so? Or has the government renamed Palma and not told anyone? Is this renaming in fact a tourist tax revenue project? To be or not to be Palma or Mallorca, that is the question.

While sceptical tourist-tax-paying tourists might be prepared to overlook this (the tourists probably couldn't care less which entity is responsible), the projects themselves will not so much convince them as to the virtue of all this sustainable being as leave them utterly baffled. I give you, for example, the 91,735.50 euros to go on "collectors and terrestrial emissary of the EDAR of Andratx". An EDAR? What the fuck's an EDAR? Well, I know what an EDAR is (it's a water/sewage treatment plant), but will those being cajoled into supporting their vacations and their islands have any idea? And what, pray, is a terrestrial emissary? Is 90 odd grand to be spent on a land-based ambassador dispatched from the mysterious ancient Kingdom of the EDAR of Andratx?

Sorry, but what on Earth are they thinking? Nothing, as far as one can make out. It's all well and good listing these projects, but might it not help if there was some sort of description, a few photos? You know the sort of thing I mean; it's what you tend to find on a website. But clearly none of the tourist tax revenue is being spent on this dismal attempt at persuasion. All one has is the brief video that has borrowed from Shakespeare.

Later in the soliloquy, Hamlet muses: "The undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of." To sort of rework this, are travellers, puzzled by what they read is how their tax money is being spent on, going to in any event bear the ills of their having been responsible for the need to "compensate the territorial and environmental impact of tourism" (quoted from the website), deliver their support to their vacations and their islands and not choose to fly to countries they do not know about?

To pay the tourist tax or not to pay the tourist tax. That is the question.

* The video clip has been around since summer 2016. Its impact, you might say, has been limited.

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