Every week Frank Leavers our man with the dirty Mac and half empty glass of inexpensive vino is looking at what lies just below the sophisticated gloss of island life. Come on folks; tell our Frank what’s really happening in Majorca.
Last week in this column, I looked back at my personal impressions and experiences of Majorca over the past twenty years since I arrived on the island. This week I want to look forward to 2040 and try to envisage what our island will be like a couple of decades in the future. I think, if for nothing else, this present pandemic has rather spoilt our complacent view as to what life will be like in the future. For instance - will Majorca still be a hugely important tourist destination; indeed, will tourism have changed irrevocably from our current perception of it and how might it impact on island life in the future?
I suppose that it is human nature to take the comfortable view, that what we have now, we will have in the future. This, I guess, is a natural human reaction to what we are attuned to expect in all aspects of our lives. Mostly, this expectancy takes shape in a stable and reliable world, where there is an order to what happens, or what is expected in peoples lives. However, post pandemic - and who is to know how this will all end - do we really expect everything to go back to ‘normal’ as it was at the turn of 2020 when almost nobody had heard of Covid-19? Even without the intervention of coronavirus, I suspect that those who think about these things, would have questioned the future shape of tourism as we understand it, and when you are as reliant upon tourism as our Balearic Islands are - this must be surely addressed as the essential prerequisite to any future thoughts on the subject. For instance, in twenty years time, do we know that the ideal holiday for northern Europeans will be entirely focused upon lying on a beach in glorious sunshine as it is at the moment?
We should remember that it was only a hundred years ago that the Mediterranean holiday experience first emerged. Before the early 1920’s it was only farm workers, peasants and fishermen who sported sun-tans in the South of France - and holidays were a very different reality to what they are at the moment. Indeed, recently, there has been a slow reversal of the traditional sea and sun holidays much favoured by almost everyone even a few years ago. As Majorca practically invented family packaged tourism, as we know it in the early 1960’s - some would say that as times move on and social realities change the premier summer holiday destination in Europe should start to look at what the future of tourism will look like in a post pandemic world. Even without the short-sharp-shock of the past few months, experts and observers were concerned at the lack of foresight regarding the changing habits and attitudes of those who want to holiday - anywhere!
For instance, will travel continue to be unrestricted, or could growing nationalism demand that tourists should stay at home as a matter of loyalty? A strange thought perhaps, but - it has been known to happen in the past and in more countries than you might think. There is also a continuing desire to combat global warning, whereupon we are all constantly reminded of our ‘carbon footprint’ as we seek to travel and experience the world. I also think that the shape of holidays has changed somewhat over the years. From the two weeks on a beach in August your parents would recognise, to a series of mini breaks throughout the year visiting various cities and countries that even twenty years ago would be seen as globe trotting on a rather expensive scale and not for the likes of you and me - or your kids in their ‘gap years.’ However, things do tend to go in cycles - right up until the beginning of this millennium cruising was seen as something the monied classes did - not for the likes of Bill & Mary Jones and their family. For example, cruising had until recently become hugely popular (witness the port of Palma over the past few years) with ever bigger ships being built and even more elaborate entertainment laid on for passengers. Nevertheless, within weeks the cruise market collapsed in the wake of the coronavirus, with cruise liners sat in port redundant and five abreast with no-one even considering sailing in them for some time in the future. Even if the cruise market does recover, will it be at the same level as before the travails of 2020?
So then, what does the future hold for Majorca and tourism? Clearly nobody knows at this time - but, I will not be sticking my neck out too far if I predicted that it will be rather different than it is at the moment, not just because of the pandemic, but because people’s aspirations are changing and evolving and Covid-19 has amongst other things, perhaps heightened that perception. I talk to many people in the tourism industry and some make the point that once the current crisis is over it will soon be “back to normal.” Others disagree, because tourism has…and is - still changing constantly and the old certainties of even a couple of years may well have gone forever. This is not to say that Majorca will be at any particular disadvantage (we still will have the most beautiful of Mediterranean Islands) but those in power politically and commercially must react quickly and positively to the ever changing circumstances of a modern world. In short, just doing what we did twenty years ago and beyond, isn’t going to help with the challenges of tomorrow - as let’s face it, the world has changed.