By Andrew Ede

Eco or ego: Alcudia take Madrid

FITUR is the Feria Internacional de Turismo (no translation needed I would hope). It takes place in Madrid, andthis year will run from 22 to 26 January. In addition to the main fair, there are different sections - ones devoted to technology, business-to-business, investment, lesbian and gay tourism and green tourism. This latter section is called FITUR Green. Co-organised by the Institute of Hotel Technology and the World Tourism Organisation together with the FITUR organisation, the theme will be “innovative and sustainable management: a commitment to the tourist”. Alcudia town hall won’t just be attending this green event, it will be sending two speakers to make a presentation - Juan González, the number two at the town hall and who has the environment portfolio, and Aina Palmer, Alcudia’s principal environment technical expert. (Some of you may, incidentally, know Juan from the Cas Capella café in the old town; the family runs it, Bar Mosquito and Sa Romana.) The title of the presentation will be “integration of the tourist offer and a sustainable form”.  It’s actually a pretty big deal for Alcudia to be making a presentation, given that the town will be lined up on the same stage as the likes of AENA, Renfe and the national hoteliers association. It also represents something of a tribute to Alcudia, which was named an ecotourist municipality in 1992 and which has, since then, had the distinctive ecotourist symbols for some hotels, bars, restaurants and nautical facilities.
For all this though, what does it really mean? One gets a sinking feeling when the word “sustainable” is thrown around. It is one of those words that has crossed into public and private sector management - others are “innovative” and “quality” - which carry little meaning other than as promotional devices, and even then they carry little meaning because they are used so often that they now have no meaning. As for ecotourism, it doesn’t always get a good press. It has been changed to “egotourism”, a term that was originally applied to tourists going to far-flung and remote parts of the globe where really they have no right to be going but which has since acquired a more commonplace application - tourism of environmental righteousness, wherever it might be. Nevertheless, and somewhat to my surprise, environmental and green factors are playing an ever more important role in informing tourists’ decisions as to holiday destinations. Or put it this way, surveys, often by tour operators, suggest this is the case. I’ll take their word, though. In truth, applying the term ecotourism to major holiday resorts creates something of an oxymoron. A key aspect of ecotourism is that impact of tourism is minimised. Much of the rest which it deals with can be adapted for holiday resorts, but because the impact had pretty much been maximised before someone came along with the ecotourism moniker, then its application has to be open to question.  Of the rest, there are, where Alcudia is concerned, some other questions. The provision of financial benefits and empowerment for local people is one. Financial benefits and empowerment there have been, but for whom? And while an all-inclusive hotel may be able to place an ecotourist symbol next to its front door, how much does it truly contribute to this empowerment? How much does it respect local culture? And, in more general terms, how much has the environmental impact on Alcudia been minimised? Alcudia has made great efforts in respect of marine and beach conservation, but in other ways?  Still, it is a feather in Alcudia’s cap to be represented at FITUR Green, and so I shan’t quibble too much.

Treasure before profit in Sa Pobla

REMAINING with an environmental theme, here’s a question for you. What are phytopharmaceuticals?
 If you don’t know, then you should be able in summer to visit the Sa Canova finca in Sa Pobla and learn about them and about the work of a German company, Bionorica, which specialises in them.
 They are pharmaceuticals derived from botanicals and not from chemicals; plants and herbs, therefore. Bionorica has bought the finca, a further development on the island for the company which has been active in plant medicines for several years.
And there is a distinctly altruistic edge to Bionorica’s operation in Sa Pobla. The company wants it to provide an educational function as much as a business one, and indeed its managing director, Michael Popp, has said that profit is not the first priority.
The important thing, he says, is to preserve the nature of Majorca, the island’s treasure. It all sounds a bit like how ecotourism should be.

Goya and the Pollensa Festival

JOAN Valent is a name you will probably be familiar with. I have mentioned him on several occasions.
He is the director of the Pollensa Festival and one who was royally mucked about this time last year when those allegations of “anomalies” in the festival’s accounts started to surface. Valent had every right to have been as angry as he was. He had, after all, put some of his own money into the festival, given the lengths he had been going to in order to secure the attendance of leading names from the music and arts world.  Valent’s fame goes much very wider than Pollensa. And because it does, it was unfortunate - to say the least - that he was treated with the disrespect that he was.
To his credit, he didn’t walk away, and came to something of an amicable understanding with Pollensa town hall. Assuming there are no hiccups and the festival takes place this summer, Valent’s role as director and so as a promotional aspect in its own right should be even greater this year. He has been nominated for a Goya, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars, for his original score for the film, Las brujas de Zugarramurdi. He is one of four nominees, the others including the American jazz guitarist Pat Metheny for the film Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados.