The crisis has, at a stroke, eliminated what for some is the tyranny of tourism.

The crisis has, at a stroke, eliminated what for some is the tyranny of tourism.

21-07-2016miquel a. cañellas

"We cannot continue to perpetuate a model based on monoculture tourism." Thus spake Patricia Font of Més Minorca in the Balearic parliament on Tuesday. Same old words, same old source of the words. It was as if nothing had happened. But a great deal has happened, not least to the what we might describe as the tourism-sceptic lobby, of which Més Minorca can count themselves as fully paid-up members.

Has this lobby been wrongfooted by the crisis? It's irrelevant to refer to monoculture tourism when there is no tourism, but we get what Patricia Font was on about, just as we have got the monoculture reference for donkey's years. And by we, I mean everyone, regardless of political standpoint or vested interest in the tourism industry. No one has actually wanted a monoculture, even if they have expressed this in a way that doesn't carry the pejorative that Patricia Font and others infer. The trouble is that it's been so obstinately difficult to break the mould.

The crisis has, at a stroke, eliminated what for some is the tyranny of tourism. But in observing the consequences of this elimination, what does the tourism-sceptic lobby have to say for itself? It couldn't in its wildest dreams (which surely could never have been dreams) have imagined a scenario such as the one we currently have. So, apart from tired old references to the monoculture, how does the lobby respond, conscious of the fact - and one assumes there will be consciousness - that the tyrant of tourism will not be striding across the fair territory of the Balearics in clomping, money-heavy boots to the extent that it did for some considerable time?

De-growth, a mantra of some from the tourism-sceptic lobby, will now be a reality. No one can realistically put a timeframe on when tourism might be fully restored, but there is the sense that it may never be. A vaccine might perhaps enable full restoration, but we have to operate according to the assumption that tourism is going to be different.

Proponents of de-growth of tourism, such as Antoni Noguera of Més or Dr. Ivan Murray of the university have never, as far as I'm aware, put a figure on this in specifying the degree to which it would be desirable for tourism to be reduced. But I very much doubt whether they would have had, for example, something like 50% in mind. Or maybe they did. Whatever the figure, there was always that question - how do you compensate for de-growth? This is the nub of the issue and always has been, but no one has ever come up with a realistic alternative, just vague notions, some of them based on a pretty preposterous and romantic vision.

During that same debate in parliament on Tuesday, Alejandro López of Podemos said that there should be a commitment to tourism and also on other economic sectors. This is not the sort of thing one might have heard from Podemos a couple of years back when its anti-capitalist faction was represented in parliament. Podemos are now showing that they have a stronger grip on reality, but the prescription - and it is one that Pablo Iglesias has also espoused - is essentially no different to that which everyone knows should be the case. The lack of realism comes with the implementation. To borrow from Francina Armengol, who has said of the Balearics that you can't simply press a button and industry sparks back into life (because "industry" is predominantly tourism), you also can't just flick a switch and have meaningful alternative, or rather diversified, industries that can sustain a whole economy.

The de-growth lobby has made the point that the current crisis doesn't amount to de-growth but that it shows that de-growth is necessary and that it entails a long-term commitment to a downscaling of production and transport and a reorganisation of society. So it is de-growth by default for which there isn't any planning. This lobby is equally as vague as the tourism-sceptic lobby. Its manifesto is littered with illusions to different ways of living and is underpinned by an ideology which, while it may not be anti-capitalist, is not exactly enamoured of capitalism.

There needs to be an escape from ideologies in envisioning and planning for tourism de-growth. Tourism will remain central, but just as central should be a strategy for true diversification. And this, I'm sorry to tell the de-growth lobby, will require capital - substantial amounts of it.

Francina Armengol is hoping to create a pact for economic and social reconstruction, bringing together parties to the right and to the left, business and unions and other agents. It would be nice to believe that such a pact can be devoid of ideologies, but one doubts it. As the tourism-sceptic lobby has been wrongfooted, it will doubtless seek to reassert itself, "monoculture" being used as the stick with which to beat tourism rather than it being the means to enable diversification. Which is what should have happened, in a serious fashion, years ago, but did not.


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