Playa de Palma. | JOSÉ BARCELÓ


I have to say that I have previously been unaware of the anglicisation of the names of two streets in Arenal (which aren't the real names anyway). I suppose there must have been, but now - because of a fuss that you will be aware of - Ham and Beer Streets are known to all.

Courtesy of the German language, Schinkenstrasse and Bierstrasse carry greater but peculiar gravitas merely because they sound rather more serious than Ham and Beer Streets. But this gravitas is an illusion. There isn't much gravitas. In fact, there isn't any, if one accepts that gravitas also means dignity and good behaviour and that there is an absence of both.

Ham and beer - the streets' adopted monikers are a reflection of simple, unsophisticated tourism times. It's not that the ham and beer must be discarded. Certainly not. But the ham and beer need reinventing. Acorn-fed Iberian hams and Majorcan artisan beers from microbreweries in the Tramuntana: these are the future for Arenal's ham and beer, with the streets proudly reclaiming their proper names - Pare Bartomeu Salvà and Miquel Pellisa - and the Council of Majorca's heritage department installing multilingual information panels to pass on knowledge to a tourism public unfamiliar with either of these gentlemen.

Hoteliers in Playa de Palma are demanding that there is a change of model for two streets which undermine a quality image that is wanted for the resort area. By change of model, they mean businesses should be making the type of investments in their premises that the hoteliers have been in theirs. Were they to, a tourism class of greater quality would be attracted.

How often have we heard this sort of demand in the past? It isn't confined to Arenal, that's for sure. It's been the same in Magalluf, where - for all that Calvia town hall has made much of its grants for improvements to establishments - the take-up has been negligible. And this may well owe something to the fact that the size of grants can only ever be useful for minor redevelopment. There are in fact establishments in Magalluf in which good sums have been invested, but engineering a wholesale change does not and cannot suddenly happen. Because of the ravage caused this summer, such transformation is now more distant.

Before the crisis, it was being said of Magalluf that business owners realised that they had to up their games. The government's tourism of excesses decree was a reason, but the feeling was that establishments were outmoded for tourists with changing demands. So much attention has been paid in recent days to the excesses that efforts which have been made have been overlooked. But even where this is a willingness to modernise and transform, the financing process isn't as flexible as with the hoteliers, who can command investment (and considerable amounts of it) from sources not available to a bar or restaurant owner.

Nevertheless, the hoteliers in Playa de Palma insist that there should be a "revolution", like the one that the hoteliers have staged. They have consistently reminded us how much has been invested by comparing this investment with the miserliness of Palma town hall. The hoteliers are now saying the same about other businesses.

The closures of establishments have placed a focus firmly on what the future holds. Do they signal the end for so-called booze tourism? One doubts it. In order to make a complete transformation away from this type of tourism, much depends on what is offered. Price engineering has been identified as being the most effective way of undertaking this transformation. As Tolo Deyà from the University of the Balearic Islands' tourism faculty says, "if we improve the product and we increase the prices, the market will lead us to do without (this type of tourism) in a natural way".

Accordingly, the product improvement would be along the lines of changing ham and beer to the Iberian ham and the artisan beers. Prices would be higher, the clientele would change. I use the ham and beer as a metaphor for a whole range of products and therefore for an alternative type of tourism that we probably all accept is a reason for the Balearic government having used Covid to hammer home its tourism of excesses message and decree.

But will this desired change happen - in the short term at any rate? Apart from the financial strains that businesses will have and their difficulties in complying with the Playa de Palma hoteliers' revolution, there is the recession that is going to affect spending capacity. Recessions have historically ushered in economy holidays. All-inclusive first received a boost in the early 1990s because of recession, and it got a massive lift because of the financial crisis.

Will Ham and Beer Streets survive and live on in much the way they have? The economics suggest they will, but the politics are a different matter.