Es Trenc. | Patricia Lozano


This grand public consultation the government's planning - you know the one, all to do with future economic and tourism sustainability of Mallorca and the Balearics. Question. Should all stakeholders be consulted?

A vast amount of opinion will be gathered regardless of this consultation exercise. It can't help but be, given that some 140 entities for this, that and the next thing were represented at the launch of the so-called pact for sustainability. Stakeholders there are aplenty, and while certain ones may not be directly and already involved, they have their mouthpieces. The Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, for example. It knows what tour operators think/want. Ditto the Balearic Association of Travel Agents. Numbered among the 140, here are bodies with feet in both the saturated camp of Mallorca and the business HQs of the Spanish mainland and further afield.

Another question. Who determines the pact? Foreigners and foreign interests? Why should they? Mallorca may operate in a global market - well, maybe not the whole globe - and is thus obviously highly influenced by this market. But Mallorca (and the Balearics) have to decide. Of opinion offered from abroad, TUI had the common good sense well before there was talk of any pact to point out that decisions regarding tourism are for the people of the Balearics and specifically referred to limits. TUI have also accepted they have max-ed out in terms of growth on the islands. There is no room for more growth. Sensible TUI.

So no. Stakeholders from foreign lands there are, but this is like an election, one in which only residents are entitled to vote. This is their land. Even if at times, plenty of times, it may not seem to be. But what about another group of stakeholders, a far larger one than a collection of tour operators and low-cost airlines? The tourists themselves.

If for no other reason than it would be interesting to capture their views, there may be an argument for the government's website for consultative opinion to have a mirror site for tourists. This said, do their views count? Should they count? Foreign business should be excluded, but then foreign business doesn't necessarily, if at all, invest emotional attachment in the islands. And it's not as if this attachment, fostered by many a visitor over many a year, prevents a degree of objectivity.

Evidence in this regard can be found in the surveys of tourist opinion conducted by the Palma-based Fundació Gadeso. As far as I'm aware, Gadeso is the only research organisation (or any organisation at that, including tourism authorities) to have had the intelligence to invite tourist opinion on anything like a regular basis - once a year.

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The latest survey by the foundation has moved the questionnaire goalposts compared with previous exercises. There is one major difference. What do you, the tourists, make of the recent protests? The survey found that 32% believe that the protests are not right as the islands live from tourism, while 28% feel that they are right. A further 29% don't think they will change anything, and the rest are don't knows.

A fairly even split of opinion, then. But when it comes to perceptions of overcrowding - a key reason for protests - 61% believe that this is either a little worse or much worse than before. Here, in part therefore, is opinion based perhaps on emotional attachment but certainly on experience.

There was a gap between the 2019 and 2022 surveys of tourist opinion for obvious reasons, but in post-Covid 2022, when for some inexplicable reason certain tourism experts had reckoned there would be less summer massification than before, the rating of overcrowding didn't just get worse, it scored negatively. It's a pretty major achievement to arrive at a negative score, but this was the result, one of minus 4 for Mallorca and minus three for the Balearics as a whole.

Gadeso notes that overcrowding impacts evaluation of aspects of the general offer, such as infrastructure and public services. These have slipped in the latest survey, and so the impression formed is that visitors aren't a million miles away from residents in terms of their perceptions.

Holiday marketing loves to promote the concept of 'experiences' (it never used to, but does so now), but a conclusion has to be that the experience is being undermined by overcrowding. All of which leads me to feel that, yes, tourists are not only stakeholders, they should be listened to.

Ah, but with what aim or possible outcome? That's the even bigger question, an answer to which was floated by a foreign stakeholder, i.e. TUI. But you know something? Limits imply the buy-in of all stakeholders, whether they are consulted directly or not.