Meeting with Armengol, Negueruela and other AETIB members.

Meeting with Armengol, Negueruela and other AETIB members.

06-08-2020P. PELLICER

There are new people at the head of the Balearic Islands Agency of Tourism Strategy. Why are there new people at what is referred to by its acronym AETIB? According to the tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, he felt a change was needed in light of the situation caused by the virus. The managing director, Manel Porras, and the assistant director, Vicente Torres, have been replaced. Bad luck for them at a time when finding other jobs might be problematic? Not a bit of it. Negueruela, also minister for the economic model and employment, has found them something else to do - Porras has returned to the directorate for economic development, entrepreneurship and the social and circular economy, while Torres has become the minister's advisor in parliament.

And so the jobs go round. Who do we now have as the new managing director of AETIB? It is Antonia Alomar. She is the daughter of Celesti, who was the PSOE tourism minister responsible for introducing the original ecotax back in 2002 and who later became the head of the Costas Authority in the Balearics. She was also, until recently, the chief of staff under the now ex-secretary of state for tourism, PSOE's Bel Oliver.

The Majorcan Oliver moved to the UN's World Tourism Organization last month. When Oliver made her move, which came out of the blue, the national tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, intimated that the move had been planned. There are those who suggest that she was in fact dismissed because of something of a screw-up in the control of awarding Covid-19 safety certificates to companies in the tourism sector. Antonia Alomar was appointed by Bel Oliver.

As well as her time with the Spanish government, Alomar can point to tourism experience in having been a consultant to various offices in Brussels. Her CV, it has been reported, involves public policy management, tourism sustainability planning, raising funds for the "realisation of projects", and an MA in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics.

As such, her tourism background would appear to be fuller than that of the person she is replacing - Manel Porras is going back to the job he had before he was made AETIB managing director at the start of the current period of government, i.e. some twelve months or so ago.

Her deputy, replacing Vicente Torres, is Esther Callizo, formerly the coordinator of the SOIB employment offices and also chief of staff at the department of the economic model. The movement of jobs therefore involves three people already within Iago Negueruela's sphere and one whose previous position had been courtesy of PSOE colleague Bel Oliver.

If you're thinking that this all seems a little bit matey, then you're probably not alone. Where Alomar is concerned, one can at least ascertain some background for the post, which seemingly wasn't the case with Porras. And that does rather raise a question as to how he ever came to be AETIB managing director in the first place.

In order to understand his appointment, one has to appreciate the politics. When the current government was formed, the tourism ministry became PSOE's domain. It had previously been under the control of Més. The AETIB managing director was Jaume Alzamora of Més. A one-time mayor of Arta, he is now in charge of local and economic development at the Council of Majorca. You may just recall Alzamora from his time at AETIB. He was the one who was interested in establishing air routes with China.

The politics are therefore pretty much everything, while there is also good fortune, certainly for Antonia Alomar. Replaced as the deputy to the secretary of state, she has not been out of work for very long. And now she is going to be helping in driving forward Balearics tourism strategy in the Covid environment.

What strategy will this be precisely? What strategy was it before? Tourism sustainability was the motif. It still is, but there's one problem with this at present - where is the tourism to be sustained? Strategy is only so good as health data, governments, airlines and tour operators allow it to be. One can talk strategy till one's blue in the face, but it is virtually redundant when all that strategists are faced with when conducting their SWOT analyses is a massive great T for Threats - one in particular.

But come what may, there are positions for "funcionarios" to fill. There are government departments for strategy and Lord knows what else which require servicing by public employees. AETIB is one, despite most tourism responsibilities, e.g. for promotion, having been transferred to the island councils. AETIB followed ATB, the former Balearic Tourism Agency, which used to be responsible for promotion. And it does of course serve a tourism sustainability function. It supervises the sustainable tourism tax. Well, someone has to, even if the revenue's being diverted to non-tourism needs.

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