The Balearics are to get a new tourism law. | MDB files

There’s a pop group in Mallorca by the name of Xanguito. In 2020, they scooped awards for best pop-rock album and best song from the Catalan music magazine Enderrock. The song and the album were entitled ‘Millions of Stars’, rather more, therefore, than the combined total of stars registered for hotels in Mallorca and the Balearics, but which, in terms of a joyous promotional campaign, could serve the Balearic government well.

In Catalan and all about stars, Xanguito point to a bright future and not only one that twinkles millions of times over in the clear summer night skies above the islands. For there are also stars on Earth, Balearic earth, and their future is to denote circularity, environmental protection, training, labour improvements and sustainability.

The Balearics are to get a new tourism law. Over the course of this year it is to be approved. Whether it is all-embracing is as yet unclear, but by the sounds of it, it will be and so contribute to the comprehensive legislative body of work that constitutes the islands’ tourism laws. Tourism law Mark III this would be. And, moreover, it would be the first to emanate from a party or parties that are not the Partido Popular. Iago Negueruela will thus be able to leave his legacy stamped all over tourism legislation. Rather like Carlos Delgado did in 2012, when the tourism law became known as Ley Delgado, so this will be Ley Negueruela or Iago, one to be alluded to for years to come.

Xanguito should have been on the plane to Madrid to sing about their millions of stars before President Armengol emerged with accompanying light show (low consumption, solar-powered). For we knew in advance that the Balearics were to be a warm-up act ahead of the Fitur tourism fair and that the government was to unveil key aspects of Ley Iago.

Star billing for a law to make the Balearics a reference point for the entire planet is the new star classification for hotels. Innovation, digitalisation, sustainability were the keywords offered last week by the tourism minister, as they are keywords that have been offered for many a long month and will be into the future. And that future is the tourism of the future, a changing model for Mallorca and the islands to be enshrined in legislation.

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Ley Iago will be, to quote the minister last week, “the appropriate framework to make more concrete (sic) the change in the model that the Balearics want to commit to in the future”. This will be in accordance with circularity and environmental criteria, without reducing the quality of service for tourists.

In future, therefore, the future of tourism will be reflected by the stars shining from hotels. And these most definitely will rely on renewable energy, for the star classification is to be revised. No more will it be solely to do with facilities and levels of service. There are to be all the various sustainability criteria, among them digitalisation and the use of electronic mechanisms like QR codes. The pandemic has provided a peer into the future - it is one that is square-shaped and full of curious digitialised hieroglyphs.

This, the minister has explained, will mean the elimination of paper and the cost of paper. When giving an outline last week, he mentioned that the use of paper is to be eliminated from all hotel services. All!? Will guests be wiping their bottoms with QR codes in the future?

Reform of the star classification system was brought up a few years ago, when it was in connection with employment standards. These will not be neglected, but the big things will be all the circularity (reuse, if you prefer), environmental protection and technologies (not yet advanced enough for paperless loos). How will this go down with hotels? Ok, one would think, as hotels have stolen a march on star-classification legislation anyway. The government will now be proclaiming world benchmark and pioneering status, but this legislation will - in a way - be a case of catching up with what the private sector has been pioneering.

An example is Garden Hotels, which in November last year became the first hotel chain in Mallorca to be certified for its circular economy strategy by the Spanish association for standards, AENOR. But Garden’s experience, since initiating the strategy in 2014, demonstrates that this is far from straightforward. It has been a major undertaking, the certification the result of perseverance. Even now, and despite a government grant, it operates at a loss.

Groups like Garden are committed to circularity. They haven’t needed a reform of the star classification to guide them. Others will need this to jolt them, but the government will have to recognise the complexities and the costs, which is probably where EU Next Generation funds will come in. Millions of euros for not quite a million of stars.