Response to the pandemic has been "to reactivate the sector in any way possible". | Archive

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Ernest Cañada is a researcher and writer who specialises in responsible tourism. A tutor at the University of Barcelona and researcher at the University of the Balearic Islands, he was a founding member of Alba Sud, an association established in 2002. The three areas of principal concern for Alba Sud are responsible tourism, fair work and the common assets of the land. He took part in a conference in Palma on Thursday and has been speaking about the challenges posed by tourism.

In his view, the pandemic's impact on tourism has been to emphasise a "dualisation" of activity. On the one hand, there is a form of elitism and "gentrification". The likes of Mallorca compete with others "to attract rich people, because there is not enough for everyone". On the other hand, "28% of the European population cannot take a week's holiday away from home, and this percentage will grow". "This will increase proximity tourism, so that in under three hours you can move by land transport."

Cañada argues that the tourist lobbies, and a good part of the political class, believe that the pandemic was a very serious episode, the response to which has been "to reactivate the sector in any way possible". The opposing view is that this is "not timely because we are facing a systemic crisis that coincides with the climate crisis, the increase in fuel prices and conflicts such as the one in Ukraine that generate more uncertainty". "Continuing to count on tourism overspecialisation is irresponsible. We are perpetuating vulnerability and will have less capacity for social protection when the next crisis occurs."

"With the rising cost of living, housing and the precariousness generated by tourism, I don't know how there hasn't already been a social explosion. We need to be careful not to go back to before 2014, when there was great conflict. It is not feasible to maintain the redistribution of benefits from tourism as this is being done at present.

"Tourism lives from us and from exploiting what is not its own - it is essential to understand this. It is nourished by common assets, such as the beaches, the landscape and the activities that we do as a society. On top of this, it parasitises the state. Public money pays for infrastructure and tourism promotion for private purposes. This situation must be reversed, and this involves improving the working conditions of workers and controlling the taxation of the sector so that it contributes to a diversification of the economy.

"To believe that a human activity can only respond to the logic of accumulation and reproduction of capital is quite sad. This is why I advocate a public debate as what role tourism should have, so that it is not only at the service of large companies."