German tourists arriving last June in Mallorca under the pilot tourism plan

German tourists arriving last June in Mallorca under the pilot tourism.

22-03-2021Efe

Do you remember when the new normal started? In case you’ve forgotten, it was the twenty-first of June last year. The phases of de-escalation had been phased out. The state of alarm was over, and tourists were beginning to move amongst us.

The first of the returning tourists included some VIPs. German, smartly but casually dressed, they gathered - in a socially distanced manner - at an Iberostar hotel in Playa de Palma. Very important people from the German tourism industry had come to Mallorca, island of the much heralded pilot tourism plan. Mallorca was pioneering, Mallorca was leading, Mallorca was confirming its position as a benchmark for all things touristic. And the German tourism industry had turned out to display its support and its admiration.

Not long after, there were some very important people from the Spanish mainland. King Felipe and Queen Letizia were in Mallorca. Their mission was one of solidarity and of hearing from sectors affected by the pandemic. Well distanced, masked and with a canopy to shield them from the June sun, king and queen listened as a succession of very important people from the island’s business associations were invited in so that they could explain all.

All designed to boost confidence, there was the air of hope. The state of alarm was over, the new normal, while not exactly normal, promised some semblance of normality. A tourism season of sorts could be had. Crisis there still was, but the worst was over. Did the prime minister not say that we had beaten the virus?

Very important people continue to descend on the island periodically. They now do so under quite different conditions. The crisis has got worse. The health situation improves one moment and then shows signs of deterioration the next. For these VIP travellers, there are new rules. Or one presumes there are rules. Do Spanish government ministers travel to Mallorca carrying proof of a negative PCR test 72 hours in advance of their missions?

Between Thursday this week and Monday next week, four ministers will arrive. In order of arrival they are: Reyes Maroto (tourism plus trade and industry); José Luis Ábalos (transport, mobility and the urban agenda); Yolanda Díaz (employment); and Nadia Calviño (economic affairs). All are very important for Mallorca and the Balearics, and they are also very important for President Armengol and the Balearic government.

Some weeks ago, the president went on her own mission to Madrid. Following her return, the Spanish government broke the glad tidings of the 1,000 million euro aid package for the Balearics. This package, more generous than for other regions bar the Canaries which can expect the same, has been spun as a triumph for the president, as also have been the arrangements for Thursday to Monday. The four ministers of the Apocalypse-to-be-averted are proof of the valiant efforts of the Balearic government to convince the Spanish government of the islands’ existence.

But why are they coming, other than to provide evidence of an apparent presidential coup? Maroto, it is understood, will be gauging the seriousness of the situation facing tourism businesses. Does she not know this already? Díaz will be analysing the situation with ERTE? What’s there to analyse except for pledging a further extension if necessary, which it is almost bound to be?

Calviño, whose visit is apparently the one arousing the greatest expectation, will be going into specifics of the aid package, albeit much of this was set out by the secretary of state, Ana de la Cueva, the week before last. Ábalos will be outlining the Spanish government’s plan for social housing. This, at least, is something rather different to the usual fare.

And usual, sadly, is how most of this has become. Granted the aid package for business is an exceptional item and has been too long in the implementation, but it has been known for some time that it was coming and that the total amount (for all regions) would be 11,000 million euros.

The tour of very important ministers is no more than what should be expected of them. It is confirmation not of some triumph for the Balearic government but of the least of what ministers should be doing in any event; they are ministers, after all. And it is also an awful reiteration of the degree to which the hope of last June has been shattered and has heaped crisis upon further crisis for Mallorca, which may be on the point of getting deeper if, for example, the Johnson government finally rules out foreign travel.

There is one very important minister who isn’t on tour, and that is Carolina Darias, the health minister. In her, quite frankly, most hope resides. And that is the vaccination; a very much more rapid programme than present. Maybe she doesn’t see the need for a test, as a trip would be non-essential.

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