Bloggers who had Twitter and Instagram-blogged nice images of nice (unspoiled) beaches in Mallorca were insisting at the weekend that their blogs were not to blame for one particular nice (unspoiled) beach being so overrun that there were queues of what no doubt consisted of other bloggers determined to blog nice images of the same nice (unspoiled) beach waiting for hours to get on to said beach.
The bloggers who were saying don’t blame us were wishing to make it perfectly clear that they hadn’t been paid by anyone to blog their nice images. They had taken the photos a) because they could and b) because they wanted to. In other words, they were doing what beachgoers have long done - taken photos. The only difference was that beachgoers of yore didn’t have Twitter or Instagram and would have thought that a Blog was a devilish creature that Patrick Troughton’s Doctor Who had encountered.
As they were rightly denying that they had taken some tour operator’s shilling in exchange for their nicely blogged photos, had it occurred to anyone that the queues for the beach might instead have been some dastardly intervention by the saturationist, massificationist, anti-tourism lobby and that the queues weren’t formed by like-minded bloggers of images of a nice (unspoiled) beach at all?
Had there in fact been, somewhere in social media space, an offer to pay bloggers to stand in a queue for hours on end in the baking sun and then upload these images of queues to Instagram? Saturation, saturation, saturation. A sort of reverse influencing by the Twitterati. Proof of massification! Mallorca spoiled! Mallorca defiled!
This was almost certainly not the case, but the possibility had occurred to me as I was at a loss to understand why anyone would queue for several hours for a beach unless this was being made financially worth their while. But then, you would queue, wouldn’t you, so that you could enjoy a nice (unspoiled) beach at a Santanyi cove, even if you discover that it is anything but unspoiled because it’s packed with bloody tourists. Or as packed as Covid beach social distancing regulations permit, which are of course part of the reason for the queues.
Summers come and summer go, and recent ones, with the possible exception of last summer, have typically brought with them stories of beach saturation. “Emblematic” coves, because local reporting and politicians (plus bloggers) appear to insist that they are always emblematic, are in danger of disappearing under the weight of human pressure; greater danger than being washed away by rising sea levels. Caló des Moro is thus positioned to become summer 2021’s emblem - that of the queue for the beach, a curious and ironic phenomenon given that tourism this summer isn’t back to a pre-Covid level.
It wasn’t always like this. In fact, it was never like this until a few years ago. The blame was heaped on tour operators who had diverted holidaymakers from Egypt and Turkey. “Geopolitics”, as in insecurity in other destinations, meant that Mallorca was “borrowing” competitor countries’ tourists. There had been complaints about saturation going back to Franco’s days, but this was borrowing on a touristically industrial scale and truly established the saturation industry and the politics of saturation.
I’m not about to deny that there is saturation. It’s a fact, and the human pressure on the island’s environment, infrastructure and resources requires action, but the specifics of this saturation - as with an emblematic cove being overwhelmed - are as much the product of institutions which lament this state of affairs while constantly proclaiming their virtuous pursuit of sustainability, as they are the very people themselves. Who can blame them for heading to these nice (unspoiled) beaches, when there has been so much publicity for them - official publicity.
How is an island, which does after all boast some wonderful beaches and coves, supposed to portray itself if there aren’t nice images and information about these beaches? There’s little point in not now including them on government, Council of Majorca websites and social media accounts, as the personal Instagram beach genie is well and truly out of the bottle. And this genie, it shouldn’t be forgotten, was at least partly encouraged by the institutions.
But if one goes back to a time when social media wasn’t as all pervasive, it was the institutions who made a big thing about the unspoiled beaches on their websites. People took note. Trip Advisor came along and then so did increasingly more and more beachgoers with smartphones and their own social media accounts. It’s grown like Topsy and to such an extent that even in a summer with fewer tourists, situations such as Caló des Moro can arise.
The bloggers are right. They aren’t to blame. They are beachgoers of the technological times in which they find themselves. And even if they are ones who are paid, then why shouldn’t they be? Who’s going to stop them?