So, do critics oppose law that penalises tourists climbing over balconies and risking their lives? | MICHELS


While Francina Armengol was pictured with a resigned expression as she spoke to a tearful fanbase last Sunday night, behind her was a grim-faced Iago Negueruela. The Armengol number two, often referred to as Francina’s iron man and officially the PSOE secretary of ideas (really, he is, or at least was), Iago’s ideas were floating away at the party headquarters on Palma’s inaptly named C. Miracle. Into a political ether, into this void were going further ideas for addressing the challenges of tourism, for Iago had spent four years grappling with these challenges, certain enormous ones that were not of his or anyone else’s making - except Thomas Cook and a source of global pandemic in China.

It is an observation of the absolutely obvious to say that Thomas Cook and Covid reinforced what was already known about economic dependence on tourism. Both events therefore hastened, or should have hastened, the development of ideas by all political entities regarding diversification. At the same time, though, this dependence, once there was recovery, could not be undermined. This has of course been the accusation levelled at the Armengol government. And yet here we are in early June heading towards what is expected to be a record tourism summer.

What will be the Negueruela legacy? A tourism of excesses law that probably won’t be undone. A much wider law, that for tourism circularity and sustainability, which will probably also remain mostly intact. The Partido Popular have said that they will get rid of the moratorium on new accommodation places, but this moratorium - affecting as it does only some 18,000 or so new places - has been inconsequential amidst the mass of 600,000-plus places that exist. Yes, this law - pioneering in the words of the now defeated government - could imply an actual reduction in the number of places, as opposed to a bar on new ones, but it was a law motivated by a requirement for quality, something which no political party disputes, as well as by circularity and sustainability.

Jorge Campos of Vox has branded the Francina Armengol government tourismphobic. Elements of the media have said similar, drawing in administrations elsewhere and suggesting the same, e.g. Valencia’s PSOE-led pact and Ada Colau’s Barcelona. The day of the tourismphobes is thus over, but then it depends what you mean by tourismphobia.

Twelve years ago, I wrote an article with the headline ‘Tourismphobia’. I have no way of verifying this, but I may have been the first writer to have anglicised a term that was then being discussed by the Spanish media. ‘Turismofobia’, it was being said, reflected a “social divorce” in respect of tourism, an alienation caused by various factors, included among which were tourist excesses. A minority social phenomenon, it began to acquire a political dimension, especially once Podemos and Ada Colau (Barcelona en Comú) emerged.

And why was this emergence? Key reasons were housing and evictions. Tourism then found itself implicated because of creeping gentrification and neighbourhood resentment at apartments being let out to tourists. The term has since become more generalised in that it is lazily applied to anything that hints at an anti-tourism message and to legislative intervention that apparently smacks of prohibition. So, do critics oppose law that penalises tourists climbing over balconies and risking their lives?

Accepted, there have been remarks and comments by politicians that have been construed as being anti-tourist. However much he tried to insist that tourist limits and not growing tourist numbers weren’t the same thing - limits were not good for foreign media consumption - Negueruela has fallen foul of an anti-tourist accusation when, in truth, very few people have disagreed with him. The hotel industry has being speaking from much the same hymn sheet, with some representatives (Carmen Riu, for instance) having argued the case for limits. The PP are not advocating growth in numbers. Even Vox say that there needs to be a better “flow” of tourists rather than more of them. Tourists, for Heaven’s sake, have themselves been saying that they feel there are too many of them.

Decrease is the dirty word, and it is so because of a fear of the economic and employment impact. Yet it doesn’t have to mean a negative impact. It comes down to the drive for quality, but at the same time it exposes the fundamental challenge of economic diversification, something spoken about for decades but with too little meaningful advance. Where there has been, as with IT, what has been the principal application? Tourism.

No government coming into power can deny a need for tourism control and for legislative intervention. This has been happening from the time when the Balearics first had autonomous government. No administration has introduced more tourism legislation than the very first - that of Gabriel Cañellas when the PP were known as the Alianza Popular. The Cladera decrees were essential because of the lack of control that existed.

Diversification, housing, the environment, health, security, energy, waste, climate change, employment, “social divorce”. Tourism doesn’t exist in a vacuum separate to any of these. Integrating them is the challenge for any government, and so tourism control, not phobia, is every bit as much a challenge.