A tourism law in name, but much of the tourism industry isn't affected. | Jaume Morey


The Balearics have a new tourism law. As is the way with the Balearics, because politicians frequently say so, this is a pioneering law to match the pioneering nature of the very industry it seeks to regulate - part of the industry, that is.

Pioneering it is in that there is no other tourism law which specifies the circularity of tourism. Or should one say the application of principles of the circular economy to tourism? Yes, sounds better, if longwinded.

And there is much to admire, once one appreciates that this is not a general tourism law. It had parameters - circularity and sustainability - and so was not intended to deal with all the myriad of tourism matters that have been covered by general tourism laws in the past. There is, for instance, nothing about the sustainability or indeed circularity of tour guides. Nor is there regulation of all-inclusive hotels. Més had wanted this, but PSOE said no, its definition of sustainability not extending to an offer which does have implications for the sustainability of other businesses. There is nothing about resort modernisation and the circularity and sustainability thereof.

Although this is being referred to as a tourism law, it falls well short of being legislation for the tourism industry. Accepting that the intention had always been for the scope to be limited, it is nevertheless slightly odd that the minister chiefly responsible for the law, Iago Negueruela, should have spoken about legislating for an industry. In essence, this is an industry comprising hotels with a dash of holiday rentals. The vast complementary offer of bars, restaurants, shops, attractions and what have you has been excluded.

There is something of a pick'n'mix in terms both of how sustainability is being defined and how it is being applied. Why hasn't the law gone further and embraced other businesses in the tourism industry? This was a point that Joan Trian, the managing director of Riu Hotels & Resorts, made back in February after the law was first unveiled. He was comfortable with the provisions. But if hotels are to be circular and sustainable, what about everyone else?

Might a clue to this exclusion have to do with cost? Much was made on Tuesday of the absence from parliament of the vice-president, Juan Pedro Yllanes. While PSOE's Negueruela and President Armengol were applauding the approval of the law, the Podemos VP and minister for energy transition had opted to stay away. In agreement with mostly all of the law, Yllanes nevertheless wished to note his protest against demands in the law with regard to renewable energy.

PSOE had rejected a Yllanes demand for all hotels to have 50% renewable energy within three years. His ministry had proposed aid of between 15% and 40% for this. The hoteliers didn't view this with great favour; PSOE blocked the proposal. Yllanes had been looking at solar installations with an estimated total cost of 180 million euros.

As it is, the law will require hefty investment. Large hoteliers can bear this, but smaller ones will struggle, notwithstanding government aid. And once one enters the world of the complementary offer, there would clearly be businesses which would find demands too onerous, to say nothing of complications that would arise in respect of who would be responsible. Think, for a moment, about businesses housed in units on the ground floors of buildings.

In addition to having renewable energy (solar), there are, for example, the circularity requirements for reuse or the minimum percentages of local product on menus. Which isn't to say that there aren't restaurants and others in the complementary sector which could deal with this, but there are plenty of businesses which couldn't.

Hotels, well they are easier. Hotels have star-classification schemes, to now be scored according to new provisions in this law. Hotels have beds, to now be elevatable. Hotels, the majority, have grounds in which they can expand in order to accommodate modernised facilities in exchange (if they are of a certain size) for a 5% reduction in beds. De-growth? No, decrease; there is a difference, and Iago Negueruela has said so. Hotels have owners with deep pockets - some do, but the depth is not evenly distributed.

As laws go, the principles are good. But a tourism law? No, it's a hotel law.