Tourists from all over the world visit Palma Cathedral. | ARCHIVO


Més, be they in Mallorca or Minorca, believe in limiting numbers of tourists. We know this because they have stated it repeatedly. What isn't clear with Més is what they mean when they refer to 'de-growth'. Decrease is explicit, but is this de-growth framed by an anti-capitalist political philosophy of de-growth? There is a world of difference, a good reason therefore for PSOE, who certainly do not subscribe to that philosophy, insisting that there shouldn't be talk of de-growth. It can be misinterpreted.

Stick to decrease, this is the PSOE line, even if gets modified to not mean decrease. Fewer tourists in high summer, redistribute them to the low season, and bingo you bring an end to summer saturation and to tourism seasonality. If only. But one thing's for sure with PSOE and that is that there shouldn't be an increase, except when - and especially for foreign consumption - this amounts to a limit being imposed. No, no, limits aren't meant; they aren't the same as not increasing. Go figure.

We have had the PSOE tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, referring almost triumphantly to a decrease in tourist numbers in 2022, despite there apparently not being a desire to decrease over the course of the whole year - only in the summer. And how great a decrease was this? All of 397 when compared with 2019, a year consistently and erroneously referred to as an all-time record year (2018 was) and which brought in close to 16.5 million tourists. 2022, it should be noted, would have registered a higher number than 2019 and quite possibly 2018 if it hadn't been for some travel restrictions early in the year.

Strangely enough, I don't recall there having been similar triumphalism with regard to 2019's total - 76,000 lower than 2018. But perhaps limits, decrease and de-growth hadn't been hurtling around the political universe at quite the same velocity in 2019 and forever been colliding with whichever numbers politicians commanded in order to make whatever their latest points were.

Which brings us to the current day and back to Més - one leading figure in Mallorca in particular, the party's candidate for Palma mayor, Neus Truyol. In a recent interview, she was asked how her party can justify its wish to end tourism promotion. She replied: "Because Palma is already very well known. This year, 19 million visitors are predicted."

On reading this, I wondered what she was talking about. In 2022, 1.94 million people stayed in Palma hotels, down from 1.95 in 2019 and 1.96 in 2018. No one can give a figure for rentals (all apartments are illegal), as there isn't a figure. As to cruise passengers, Balearic state ports (not just Palma) received 1.73 million in 2022, 35% fewer than in 2019. All passengers at all the five state ports amounted to 8.73 million (8.3% fewer than in 2019), but only cruise passengers can, with any real confidence, be classified as Palma day visitors as opposed to ones who might have stayed in accommodation or who were travelling on or who were residents.

How does Truyol come up with the figure of 19 million for 2023? How does it compare with 2022 or 2019 or 2018? We don't know because she didn't say so. There is no context. There is no explanation. All we are presented with is a figure - 19 million - that sounds huge (because it is) and which implies a highly unwanted 'massification', when for political purposes it is a case of massifying the figures in order to make a point. How many reading what she said stopped to question the basis?

The numbers are important, very important, when they are verified and when they are given context. But all too often, it can seem to me (as one who does actually favour a decrease and doesn't view this as economically detrimental), we are presented with a tourism discourse predicated on numbers that are either supposed to be alarming or beneficial (depending on who comes up with them and for what purpose) but are instead facile and simplistic.

If it isn't round numbers or percentages being tossed around with an absence of rigour, then it is the type of report that commands attention based on very little. As an example, there was a recent one about numbers of tourists in June - loads of them, an apparently greater massification of them than ever. And yet the substance of this report failed to support the impression. One source of this supposedly great number (not that a total was even ventured) were Spanish students, of whom there will be 20% fewer than last year. And at something just over 20,000 in all, they are a drop in the statistical ocean; the Balearics tourist total for June last year was 2.43 million, for Mallorca it was 1.63 million. Another source was Imserso, the Spanish pensioner holidaymakers. Imserso? You've got to be kidding, especially as the numbers are down because fewer hotels are participating in the programme.

Rigour, I suppose that's all I ask for. But there are times when, because of failures of the tourism discourse, such rigour is either unattainable or (more likely) undesired.