his committee, Pérez says, only has 20% municipality representation. | T. DIEZ


There’s a term that I hadn’t come across until the other day. An official one, it is “very internationalised sun and beach destinations”, and it also an important one, as it has to do with investment in resorts (which is what “destinos” in Spanish often means) from European Next Generation funds.

These resorts are not difficult to identify. Spain has a host of them, and Mallorca contributes a good number to this overall tally. This said, what does “very internationalised” mean? Is there a scoring system to determine the degree of internationalisation? Is consideration given to the number of foreign tourist nationalities that are represented in specific resorts?

The overall plan for spending European Next Generation funds on tourism sector competitiveness and modernisation between this year and 2023 amounts to 3,400 million euros. This money first arrives with the Spanish government, which then distributes it to the regions, which then distribute it to the resorts. If the resorts are lucky.

Along the way, it would appear, there is a scoring system, although the only one I am as yet familiar with is a scoring of project proposals from resorts (for which read town halls). What might come before this, it’s hard to say, and there is one town hall which has stated that it doesn’t understand the process that well. That town hall is Benidorm. The resort of Benidorm qualifies as sun and beach and probably is “very internationalised”, depending on how this is in fact defined, as Benidorm does attract a high number of national tourists.

The mayor of Benidorm, Antonio Pérez, has offered an insight into a process that he and others at the town hall don’t get - if insight is the correct word for not getting something. The initial distribution of these Next Generation funds for tourism set a minimum investment of eight million euros. Benidorm has a project estimated at around this amount.

This is all in line with digitalisation and sustainability criteria for the 2030 Agenda, the master strategy for the EU, the Spanish government and seemingly all regional governments - Valencia and the Balearics included.

The town hall was recently notified by the “advisory committee” that although its project reached a minimum score of 70 points, because of “budget limitation” and some other provision, it did not get to 75 points. Therefore, Benidorm has been excluded from funding - certainly for now.

This committee, Pérez says, only has 20% municipality representation. From what one can gather, it otherwise comprises the Spanish and regional governments - Valencia in this instance - and the mayor doesn’t know how it has arrived at its decision or the bases for awarding funds.

The overall plan for spending European Next Generation funds on tourism sector competitiveness and modernisation

Pérez would like to believe that the fact that Benidorm town hall is run by the Partido Popular and the Valencia and Spanish governments by PSOE has had no bearing on the decision, although he can’t rule this out, given that Benidorm seems to meet all the criteria and that it is to the very fore of international tourism and therefore the need for Next Generation funds.

As far as resorts go, Benidorm is large. It would therefore qualify for the larger sums of investment - minimum eight million. But large or small, the Benidorm case raises questions as to how this European funds distribution system is going to work in Mallorca.

Related news

If politics are a factor - and I stress if - then we can immediately identify two town halls which will be rubbing their hands. No prizes for guessing - Calvia and Palma. Assuming, though, that all will be politically fair, there is nevertheless the fact that the mayor of a very significant resort doesn’t understand exactly how the distribution of funds works. If Pérez in Benidorm doesn’t, then what are the chances of other town halls knowing?

These resorts are not difficult to identify

The process of scoring the project, which is what has concerned the mayor, is one aspect. There is then this business of “very internationalised”. In Mallorca, one would think that any resort, be it small or large, would qualify, given all the nationalities that come to Mallorca and the fact that, in overall terms, non-international tourism accounts for only around 12 to 13 per cent (in normal, pre-Covid years).

There are to be various distributions, based on project minimum amounts, so one trusts that the process will work out to be equitable and produce required investment for smaller resorts. But there is one glaring concern, and this has to do with the terminology.

In parliament on Tuesday, the Balearic tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, spoke about the government getting back to its “transformation agenda” for tourism. Interrupted by the pandemic, this agenda will provide the focus for 2022. Moreover, as the minister added, there are European funds to aid this transformation. Indeed there are, but the questions are - where will be transformed, how will they be transformed, and with how much?

Negueruela referred specifically to “the main mature resorts” in the context of this European-funded tourism transformation. A point is that “mature resorts” is a quasi-legalistic term that applies to a handful of resorts. And where do you think they are? Correct. Calvia and Palma - specifically, Magalluf, Paguera, Palmanova, Santa Ponsa and Playa de Palma.

Yet the other term, as has been made clear with Benidorm, is “very internationalised sun and beach resorts”. So, where Mallorca is concerned, which is it? And what are the definitions?

Colònia de Sant Jordi

Let’s hope that there is greater clarity about a process that has the mayor of Benidorm scratching his head and that there is fairness in investment distribution. These funds, as has been said, offer a once-in-a-generation opportunity. As Marc Pérez-Ribas of the opposition Ciudadanos said in parliament in questioning the minister, let there be “a good strategy with good proposals”. Quite.

Digital for tourism - you can say that again

The Council of Majorca, proudly now assuming ever greater responsibility for tourism promotion, is endowing the Mallorca Tourism Foundation (part of the Council) with 8.3 million euros for 2022.

Actions to be taken next year, the Council says, will be framed within the 2020-2023 strategic tourism plan and will principally focus on extending the season and on strategic products, such as sport, gastronomy and culture. So, nothing new there, then.

But vital to all this will be “digital”. In this regard, there will be a roadmap for digital promotion. Steps will be taken to improve the digital positioning of the Mallorca brand and to promote the island’s digital tourism at a time when, after the pandemic, digitalisation is the key.

Did someone say digital?