Iago Negueruela

Iago Negueruela in a news conference.

28-09-2021R.L.

Iago Negueruela seems to be relatively content. The “strong man” of the Armengol government flexed his muscles and brought about the decree against tourism excesses.

“A tough rule,” the minister admits. A tough rule laid down by a tough tourism minister. Because of Covid, its effectiveness has yet to be fully assessed. Approved in January 2020, the streets (certain streets) of Magalluf and Playa de Palma haven’t been exposed to a season-long abundance of potentially excessive tourists. But experience thus far has provoked the tentative contentment of the Balearic tourism minister. Images of drunken tourism have been “much more controlled”.

In other words, there haven’t been as many, and where there have been, they have - in certain instances - been exposed as wholly inaccurate. The most ridiculous was the French gathering on Punta Ballena that was supposedly of drunk Brits being pursued by the Guardia Civil. The images showed no Brits and no Guardia Civil.

The minister’s contentment is in the face of what has been no lack of trying by elements of the media - local and foreign. Come the weekend, and crews have been out to see what images they can find. Very little, and nothing out of the ordinary. As Negueruela notes, it would be possible to come across these images in any tourist destination, but then Magalluf and Playa de Palma aren’t any old destinations. They are high maintenance resorts with high sensationalist capacities for their respective markets.

It’s precisely because of this that the government has been so determined to put a stop to the potential for image-making. Every image tells a story, even if it is exaggerated or not entirely truthful. And where it is true, it can also be fleeting and lacking in context. Long queues at the airport may have been exacerbated by Covid checks, but such queues have been a regular reality on account of peak flight scheduling. The images can swiftly change, but these are not what satisfies an insatiable demand for blaring out “chaos”.

A minister like Iago Negueruela and a government like the Balearic government are hostages to the misfortune of the smartphone. They are attempting to be proactive rather than face the reactions to the latest apparent outrage uploaded to Twitter. And there is more to this misfortune, which is the sheer size of media in its different guises and the vast appetite of this media for images to boost web traffic and Google rankings.

Confronting this is a hopeless task, so the proactivity is like an exercise in damage limitation but with the hope that, at some point, the “tough” rules will spirit away the excesses and allow calmness to prevail on the streets. Even if the government succeeds in its qualitative upgrade of excess-attracting resorts, you can bet that in seasons to come there will be some incident or other to spark the attention of a smartphone and to be viralised - c’est la guerre of the media glare and standings.

It’s nigh on impossible to prevent. In fact, it is impossible, and it happens to all authorities. If not tourists behaving badly, then it might be a beach. Not because of behaviour, but on account of something deemed excessive. Look at all those people on the beach at an idyllic cove. Phone out. Snap! Twitter is but a moment away, followed by cries of outrage and demands that the authorities (whichever these may be) do something.

The images tell a story, but there can be two sides to every story. There often are, as in the case of the airport for instance. And so there also is with a specific type of alleged uncleanliness on a beach - excess uncleanliness.

The Partido Popular are in opposition at Manacor town hall. Anything to make a point, therefore, and they have done so with images of disgruntled tourists shovelling away posidonia detritus from their parasol area. The PP say that this is an example of negligence on behalf of the town hall administration. The beaches should be kept clean. “We would very much like that these images do not have to be repeated again and that anyone who visits our beaches will find them clean and in good condition.” Unsightly it may be, but then dead sea grass does provide an invaluable function - it helps to prevent erosion and the loss of beach.

Iago Negueruela doesn’t want the “type of images” of excess to be produced again. The PP in Manacor don’t want sea grass images to be repeated. The two examples are very different in that the sea grass, for all that it clashes with an Instagram ideal of pristine, white sandy beaches, can be said to be beneficial.

No one, for their varying reasons, wants repetition of images, but with the best will in the world and the best of proactivity, there will come some repetition. Snap!

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