Does the Balearic government really appreciate what it is doing with tourism? | Teresa Ayuga

David Carson lives in Majorca and Northern Ireland. Emeritus Professor of Marketing at the University of Ulster, he is a tourism strategy expert and consultant.

The Balearic government continues to push onwards with a heavily socialist strategy without regard to the impact on economic activity necessary to sustain a high quality of social  and environmental well-being. Consider the following:

- There is a serious imbalance in the Majorca political debate on future tourism. Currently the government mantra is tourist saturation, manifesting itself as tourismphobia.

- The tourist tax is designed to generate extra tax revenue and perhaps reduce the number of tourists in the summer. Any suggestions of harmony between tourists and local population are spurious in the extreme and therefore rejected in the extreme.

- The Majorca tourist infrastructure is established over sixty years and has been receiving extensive refurbishment and modernisation over the past decade.

- Majorca is in direct competition with other similar destinations in the Mediterranean, such as the Costas, the Canaries, Greek Islands, Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere.

- The European mass tourism market is consistently stable in total size and behaviour. 

In any mature society, political argument is founded upon optional ideology and strong doctrine. In general terms, left, centre and right. Currently in Majorca, the government can be perceived as left-leaning, which is fair enough in its own way.

In a mature society, a political doctrine would be founded upon sound theoretical constructs of economic, social and environmental well-being. Any keen observer of such constructs would struggle to find sound theoretical constructs underpinning any of the current Balearic government's deliberations. It is easy to believe such deliberations are based upon ideology and perhaps even prejudice.

Further, where is the opposition counter argument, that of economic importance in the context of social and environmental well being? It seems that political opposition is about criticism of anything governmental, but this criticism has little or no foundation upon any theoretical economic, social and environmental constructs of the centre or right of politics.

These two stances have a serious potential for societal unrest.

Tourist tax
There is a generally held view that excessive (additional) taxation eventually leads to economic downturn: in this sense, lower overall economic activity which leads to less productive activity and a decline in overall GNP. The knock-on effect of this is poorer social and environmental well being. So, again in general terms, governments tend to hide tax increases behind counter tax benefits.

Creating new taxes, like the Balearic tourist tax and headlining it seems to be political naivety in the extreme. Why doesn't the current government hide this tax with purchase taxes, VAT in the UK, IVA in Spain. Perhaps it would require lobbying with central government, but in the greater Catalan independence context, there would seem to be a strong leverage for gaining such a concession from central government.  

Further, the doubling of the tourist tax, accompanied by all the negative publicity in core tourist markets is expected to generate around 120m euros. Placed beside a planned budget for 2018 of 4,086,540,000 euros plus, headlining negative connotations for such a paltry sum in comparison is tantamount to scandalous political and economic behaviour.

Majorca tourist accommodation infrastructure and its direct competitors
The unchanged nature of the accommodation infrastructure is proportional to any mass tourist region - a majority of 2/3* and in proportion, 3* plus; 4*&5* and extensive rural private rental. In infrastructure terms, Majorca is a mass tourist destination, it is NOT and never will be a 'select' tourist destination as long as the above infrastructure exists.

To achieve an apparent government desire, to aim for higher spend tourists, will lead to waste and decay and dereliction of large tracks of 2/3* infrastructure over time. Higher spend (charging more) for 2/3* will not be possible because of the lack of differentiation of similar accommodation elsewhere in the Med.

Majorca is stuck with its current accommodation infrastructure unless huge public spending compensation is applied to make the lower levels of accommodation disappear.

Lack of differentiation in Mediterranean mass tourism
What does the European mass tourism market (especially summer tourism) expect? In broad terms it desires warmth/sun, relaxation - sea and sand, a little local culture, and value for money, whether 2/3/4 or 5*. What do the Mediterranean summer tourist destinations offer? In general, essentially the same product and service with small variations, mostly local culture.

The variations in destination popularity are driven by social stability and price and to a lesser extent loyalty. What has Majorca got to offer over other Mediterranean destinations?

For the one/two week holidaymakers there is little in the way of mass tourism attractions in Majorca that cannot also be enjoyed in most other Mediterranean destinations. So, there must be a clear tourism strategy in such a circumstance. That is, whilst largely offering the same product as all other Mediterranean destinations, the key is to offer this in a better way, by offering greater quality of service and better value for money.

Most business-orientated companies know the business acumen of the benefits accrued from a combination of good quality and value for money. However, when government decides, through ideological naivety and anti-mass-tourism, to drive a coach and horses through the well-understood logic of good business practice by taxing tourists for coming to its destination, the outcomes become extremely unpredictable.