The president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, Maria Frontera, stated that the focus will be “exclusively” on hotels. | R.L.

Fitur, as with the other major tourism fairs, is a grand occasion for tourism authorities - governments and others - to take centre stage and show off what they’re doing or say what they intend doing. As it is held in Madrid, Fitur has a publicity element above that of the other big fairs - Berlin, London - precisely because it is in Madrid and is thus accessible to more national media to be able to report the presentations by these tourism authorities to a public made aware that there is a fair going on by the presence of the King and Queen.

The Royals safely gone, Francina Armengol and Iago Negueruela were able to command centre stage in outlining the grand plan to reaffirm Balearic tourism leadership through the model of the future to be underpinned by legislation. Having wondered earlier in the week if this was to be a comprehensive new tourism law, it would seem that it will not be. The president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, Maria Frontera, stated that the focus will be “exclusively” on hotels.

From other sources came questions such as why not holiday rentals, to say nothing of various other matters that affect the tourism industry.

What title will therefore be given to this legislation? This, as with the small print, remains to be seen. As also does the timeframe. Once it comes before parliament, if the president believes it will be plain sailing, she is likely to be proved wrong. She has been saying that the central tenets of this law have consensus. That’s not what the opposition parties are saying.

For the opposition, there is a problem in that they naturally oppose but they equally don’t want to be seen as being against the main principles, e.g. the circular economy and sustainability. In fact, the PP and Ciudadanos have expressly stated that they share these. The arguments are therefore likely to be about the detail, the “small print” that no one yet knows because there isn’t actually a draft text to consult. The PP, out in force at Fitur, were muttering about “imposition”.

As I have previously observed, certain hotel chains are well ahead of the game anyway. Garden is one example, Iberostar another. The application of circular economy measures, as Maria Frontera has pointed out, has been standardised for at least two years. The federation has developed a manual - a self-diagnostic tool for hotels. But strict application of circularity, as highlighted by Garden’s elaborate and not always easy path, comes at a price. So do other aspects of this legislation, such as the beds.

Negueruela has intimated that European funds will pay. Or will at least help to pay. Ciudadanos, for one, aren’t sure that they will pay, while experience with distributing Covid-inspired funds (be these Spanish government, European or any other) has implied a number of hoops to have to go through. The small print will doubtless reveal all in this regard.

One of the headlining aspects is related to occupational health, a point that Armengol wished to impress on the ranks of the media in Madrid. This has to do with ‘Las Kellys’, the hotel chambermaids, many of whom have suffered from occupational injury. Adjustable beds, elevating beds, smart beds - call them what you like - the hotel industry faces having to replace some 300,000 plus beds over six years from the time that the bill becomes law. It is this part of the legislation which has proved to be the most contentious.

Armengol’s consensus and dialogue were stretched to the extreme. Opposition parties are claiming lack of consensus, but the hoteliers have fallen into line. But only just. Such was the tense nature of the dialogue that it had appeared if they wouldn’t be attending the pre-Fitur announcement of the legislation on Monday. Had they not, the government would have had serious amounts of egg on its face.

As it was, one photo of this gathering suggested that Maria Frontera wasn’t overly happy at having to put in an appearance.

The negotiations led to the six-year period, this initially having been five years. It has also been suggested that the amount of financial aid on offer was way too low. A figure of 55 million euros has been mentioned. But what for isn’t altogether clear. Given all the ambitions that the government has for circularity plus the likes of adjustable beds, the necessary funding could be way more. And that’s before one gets to that legislative small print pertaining to rules for the distribution of funds.

In principle, and from what one can so far make out, the law has a lot going for it. However, as Patricia Guasp of Ciudadanos has said, the music sounds good, but what about the lyrics. And there are questions. One is about the beds. What do you do with thousands upon thousands that are to be rendered obsolete? What is the circular economy solution for these? Then there are the other establishments, those which aren’t hotels and that include holiday rentals. Does occupational injury only affect hotel chambermaids?

With some justification, the hoteliers - as they have in the past - can argue that standards should apply to holiday rental accommodation as they do to hotels. But then this legislation isn’t about holiday rentals. The focus, as Maria Frontera notes, is hotels, the government having in the past preferred to introduce specific legislation for the tourism industry, as with the tourist tax and the law governing the registration of holiday rentals. It is now doing the same with hotels, but as it is going to revamp the classification system, why not do what it should do and classify all accommodation?

This said, why is the government bothering to amend the classification? What purpose do stars serve when guests can discover for themselves precisely what facilities there are simply by looking at a website? And in the future, under the model for the future of tourism - as branded by Francina Armengol and Iago Negueruela - will stars in the Balearics become more confusing as the classification system will be less comparable with those of other destinations than it might already be?

There is one reason for the stars that isn’t what guests would typically be interested in, but which is of great interest to the government in its quest for quality of employment and indeed quality of offer and quality of tourist. The reason is pay.

The collective bargaining agreements for hotel employees have a range of salaries per job category and per the star rating - the higher the rating, the higher the pay. Ideally, one fancies, the government would want no less than the equivalent to the current four star for all establishments. By creating criteria that go well beyond the traditional facilities, the government may well get its wish. That would mean an across-the-board increase in pay, which in turn would mean ... higher prices in general.

The proposed legislation duly announced, it is now set to be one of the major topics of the year and with questions to be asked and probably left unanswered. For instance, as this is about hotels, why has there been no mention of all-inclusive? Legislation was spoken about, and I’m not referring to the very limited rules (geographically) under the tourism of excesses decree. Or is legislation for the market more difficult than for beds?