Sunday, January 21, 2018

When Bel Went To Madrid

"Now then, Bel, just listen to what I have to tell the hoteliers, and then later, when the press want to hear from us, give them the normal lines about seeking consensus, lengthening the tourism season, diverting tourists away from the summer to the low season thanks to the success of the 'Better in Winter' campaign, redistributing wealth, creating jobs and so on. Have you got that?"

"Yes, I think so, Francina. But are you saying that I shouldn't say anything to the hoteliers?"

"That is exactly what I'm saying, Bel. Look, you may be the tourism minister, but you've barely been in the job a month, which is not enough time for you to have the faintest idea what you're talking about other than spouting the normal nonsense to the press like myself and every other minister."

"Oh, very well, but I thought this trip was going to be my chance to demonstrate what a firm grip I have on tourism in pursuit of sustainability and securing the future of the environment and the wealth of the citizens."

"You may have thought that, Bel, but the hoteliers aren't going to fall for you being even remotely in charge or having a firm grip on anything. If you must, when it comes to the press, you can trot out some percentage of what the tourist tax will cost the typical family of four relative to the total cost of the holiday. Biel used to do that, which would stun them all into silence for a moment or two."

"But I don't know what the cost of a holiday is for a typical family of four."

"Quite. That's why you're the tourism minister. Now, are we ready for the hoteliers?"

"Yes, Francina."

And so, alas poor Bel, who sat round the table, maintaining a respectful silence as the hoteliers trained their eyes only on Francina. But it wasn't all a waste of time. There were the various photo opportunities. Look, there's the delegation from (insert the town hall as applicable), time for a photo with them. Not that Bel was left on her own. Oh no, all the others were in the photos as well. Francina, Cosmic Bonet of the Council, Mercedes of the Council, Mick of the Council, and anyone else they could drag in.

For the town halls, what a splendid event the Fitur fair was. My, how the media drool over all this stuff. "Mr (Ms) Mayor, what is your assessment of your participation at this year's fair?" "It has been extremely positive. A great success." Meanwhile, and out of view, the massive piles of newly printed brochures for cultural tourism in whatever municipality were remaining stubbornly massive.

Although Mick, Mercedes and Cosmic had taken themselves off to Madrid to, for instance, demonstrate how Mallorca inspires culture (about which we heard not a botifarró), they had more urgent, headline-grabbing matters to attend to back in Palma. Yes, the Great Map Of Mallorca's Zones was unveiled, a cartographer's delight of colour coding, each colour designed to strike sorrow or joy into the hearts of prospective owners of holiday rental accommodation.

"Now then, the red zones are ... ?" "They're saturated." "Ok, and the purple ones?" "They're high tourism pressure." "Isn't that the same thing?" "No, red is saturated and purple is high tourism pressure." "But they amount to the same thing." "Well, yes, sort of." "The grey areas - and I'm not referring to the whole thinking behind zoning - what are they for?" "They're industrial estates." "Industrial estates?" "Industrial estates." "Since when have car showrooms been likely holiday rental accommodation?" "Have you looked on Airbnb lately?"

What a fabulous week it was for tourism, but less than fabulous for Bel, whose thunder was stolen in Madrid and then later in Palma when the Great Map was put on display.

Still, we can now expect her to refer to the Great Map when explaining how sustainability is to be assured, how wealth is to be redistributed to the citizens, how the land (our land) will be saved, how jobs will be created ... . What she probably won't be saying is anything about the tourist tax percentage of the total cost of the holiday for a family of four. Where's Biel when we need him?

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