By Ray Fleming
The news of the resignation of the Balearic government’s Minister for Tourism, Carlos Delgado, had been expected for some time but still somehow came as a surprise between Christmas and New Year.
In a political career that had included eight years as Mayor of Calvia Sr Delgado had attracted controversy for various reasons but one of his occasional critics, the Bulletin’s Andrew Ede, assessed his performance during two years as Tourism Minister in this way: “Delgado was not a bad minister. The liberalism he applied to the hotel sector didn’t go down well with everyone, but his thinking wasn’t wrong. He knew how badly modernisation and renewal were needed. He also sought to get rid of the notion of promoting the Balearics and concentrating instead on the individual islands (and Palma) as their own brands. He was hamstrung up to a point with budgets, but as a backer of Bauza’s austerity he couldn’t object to the small amounts for promotion...Unpopular he was, but there is one reason to lament his going. Among Majorca’s politicians, he was controversial but also fascinating. The political scene has suddenly become that little bit less interesting.”
Although island-proud Majorcans resent the implication that “we lived in caves before tourism” there is little doubt that the economic development made possible by the 1960 phenomenon of mass tourism changed Majorca fundamentally and irreversibly -- and that change having taken place tourism is the only industry that can sustain it.
It has therefore been surprising to learn in the wake of Carlos Delgado’s resignation how casually successive Balearic governments have treated this key industry on which their citizens’ well-being largely depends.
In the thirty years existence of the Ministry for Tourism there have been ten ministers of whom only two held office for several years.
Of course, changes in the parties in power account to some extent for the revolving door at the Ministry.
Nonetheless it might have been expected that the ministers responsible for the biggest local industry, by a large measure, would have been chosen more carefully and given stronger
support than seems to have been the case.
The tourism issues needing attention for the future are many and varied. For instance, how important in the overall scheme of things are the kinds of tourism that have little or nothing in common with the main sun-and-sand business -- rural vacations, for instance, which help to provide the diversity of tourism on Majorca that many people believe is necessary if over-reliance on the conventional coastal holiday is to be avoided.
But In a detailed article during the week Andrew Ede argued that the economic importance of rural tourism is overplayed and that the standards of accommodation and facilities may be too variable to sustain worthwhile growth.
His views were immediately challenged in a Letter to the Editor from Annie Sofiano, the owner of an Agrotourismo, who contradicted several of his reservations -- most notably his doubts about the availability of WiFi facilities in rural areas by assuring him that her guests have access to highspeed WiFi throughout the house and grounds as well as TV offering many international channels.
In recent months the debate on the future of Majorca’s tourism seems to have been confined to the reform of Magalluf, all-inclusive hotels, apartment holiday letting and winter flights. They are important, of course, but so too in their own way are the many alternative kinds of tourism that Majorca can offer, summer and winter.
The debate about these alternatives seems to be attracting more attention. Perhaps the departure of Carlos Delgado may provide an opportunity for a more open, better-informed debate in which all those with an interest in Majorca’s tourism future can take part.
One of the most eagerly awaited Bulletin features of the year -- Andrew Valente’s list of his Best Restaurants of the Year -- duly appeared this week and listed forty-five restaurants where the food was good and the price was right. Most, but not all, were in or near Palma and across six pages enough information was provided about each to enable committed eaters-out to choose according to their taste.
While noting the loss of several restaurants during the year because of economic conditions Andrew Valente also praised those owners and chefs who had kept prices at a reasonable level. At the same time he sounded a warning against a tendency to upgrade wine lists, noticeable especially in new managements some of which were “over ambitious and simply didn’t get their prices right”.
The Bargain of the Year was identified as Meson La Poseda (Calle Ruben Dario 4, tel 971573531) where “For dinners only, and from Monday to Saturday, they serve a list of 22 tapas and small plates from which customers can order as many as they like, and even have repeats. The cost is 12 euros per person without drinks but draught beer and wine prices are normal.”
Also given a special note as one of the “only two really good Chinese restaurants in Majorca” was The Mandarin which was opened in 1968 by Roman Chiang and is still run by his nephew Yeung, who was there at the start, and his wife Me Me --”Yeung’s spring rolls are the best I have ever eaten” was the verdict.
The most striking thing about Andrew Valente’s restaurant guide is the wide range of food it shows to be on offer -- from a new Moroccan restaurant, Tea in Sahara to the ten-year-old all-American Diner, special dishes from many parts of Spain, Italy and Asia as well as Majorcan favourites.
With increasing talk about Palma’s potential as a short-break tourist attraction, is enough being done to draw attention to what its restaurants have to offer as an alternative to hotel food?
Palma’s 112 emergency hot line took more than 700 calls during New Year celebrations although the police reported that despite some fights and traffic accidents the festivities had passed without any serious problems for the hundreds of officers on duty.
Spain’s minimum wage of 21.51 euros per day is lilely to be frozen for 2014 by the government; it is one of the lowest in the European Union, on a par with Greece and below that of France and Italy.