Among the various tourism messages to have been emanating from the Council of Mallorca, not just in the past days but over recent months, is that sustainability is “one of the experiences most demanded by tourists”. The councillor for tourism, Andreu Serra, referred to this at the time of the ITB Berlin fair in March. Different market to that of this week’s London fair, but the same message. Whether British, German or whoever, sustainability is the word, as it has in fact been for several years.
A tourist may demand sustainability and a tourist may indeed experience sustainability, but this particular experience is a consequence of actions taken to enable the perception of sustainability - clean energy, elimination of single-use plastics and so on. It is a passive experience, as there are also - as Serra has been saying - active experiences that are indicative of sustainability. Experiences are thus another word, a keyword, to have come to the top of the list of the tourism lexicon.
Active doesn’t solely mean taking part in activities, be these cycling, hiking or whatever. It means engagement, and so active tourism that is an alternative to mere sun and beach involves appreciation of all that lies away from the shoreline and the rows of sunloungers. “Mallorca has always been known for its glorious beaches and weather, but the island has so much more to offer. Tourists are much more active, adventurous and curious than they used to be. Years ago, many would come for the sun but had no real interest in exploring and experiencing Majorca,“ said the councillor in a Bulletin interview.
Within the range of experiences that fall into the sustainability category is that of nature. There can in fact be few experiences that are more sustainable than a simple and respectful appreciation of a destination’s nature and a desire to be closer to this nature. In that interview, Serra - on an anticipated early start to the 2022 season - observed that “a large number of hotels have signed up to our plan to open in February and remain open well into the winter”.
Hotels are seemingly everything, despite there of course being other types of accommodation. Or there would be, if they were available. Which brings me to not one but two studies to have emerged over the past few days. They are both from leading consultancies - Deloitte and EY (Ernst & Young). In the case of Deloitte, their report has highlighted the demand for safe, healthy, sustainable alternatives and experiences, closer to nature and respectful of the environment.
These are words which Andreu Serra would read with admiration and full agreement. But there is nothing he can do about these alternatives and experiences, as Deloitte were highlighting them in ‘The Real Estate Campsite Market Insights’ study. Serra can speak of hotels but he has to be silent about campsites, as there aren’t any in Majorca - not proper holidaymaker ones, anyway.
The Deloitte report, as suggested by its title, has to do with investment opportunities. In this regard, there is reference to major private equity firms, the same ones that have been highly active in the hotel real-estate market in Mallorca, such as Blackstone. The consultancy was drawing attention to the opportunities for Spain, which lies sixth in Europe in terms of the number of campsites - France has the most, 7,960 compared with Spain’s 1,190.
In identifying this number, Deloitte would have been ignoring Mallorca, although not the Balearics entirely, as Ibiza and Minorca together stretch to a few campsites. For holidaymakers seeking what Deloitte says has become a “winning product” in Covid times, they would more normally go to Catalonia or Valencia.
The EY study is ‘The Hotel Property Telescope-Islas Baleares’. As with Deloitte, this considers investment opportunities, but it is specific to the islands, and the report indicates that there is “growing demand by travellers looking for campsites and hostels”.
Increasingly, there is a divergence in the holiday market that isn’t solely determined by income and purchasing power.
The push in the hotel market is for ever more “quality” that is accompanied by higher prices and profitability. There is also the push at a lower end of the market, hence the interest in campsites and hostels. But, and because Andreu Serra’s “experiences” are becoming more important, this lower end attracts a range of holidaymakers - the well off in addition to others. Both Deloitte and EY stress that this market should not be neglected.
That Mallorca doesn’t have proper tourist campsites is the legacy of one of the famous Cladera decrees. The first Balearic tourism minister, Jaume Cladera, introduced a series of regulations. One of these, from 1986, made campsites all but untenable because of the requirements listed in the decree.
The Council of Mallorca, responsible for territorial planning, does have it within its powers to make camping more feasible. But would it? Not without there being a reduction in other accommodation places, it wouldn’t. And yet here is a tourism product that has everything going for it in terms of sustainability, closeness to nature, respect for nature and the environment, and experiences.