Tourism fairs are about tourism. That's a statement of the obvious, but one which appeared to have been partially forgotten when the Balearics flew to Madrid for the annual Fitur gathering of the tourism clans. The presence of Spain's employment minister, Yolanda Díaz, in close proximity to Francina Armengol offered a hint that this was more than a tourism fair. And it was.
Fitur, courtesy of the Balearic government, was converted into a convention for ergonomics, occupational health and production systems for reusability. Manufacturers of adjustable beds were jumping for joy as much as Las Kellys, the hotel chambermaids, were, and the employment minister was likewise in spirited mood, as she learned how EU Next Generation funds are to be used in preventing industrial injuries of the future.
The future is underwater
What actual tourism there was looked to the future. The Balearics tourism of the future was presented by Francina and Iago Negueruela against a backdrop image of fish swimming above a meadow of posidonia sea grass. The future lies on the seabed, well away from the intrusiveness of tourists, except those who run the risk of hefty penalties for dropping anchor on posidonia.
It will also "integrate everyone and not just tourists", explained the tourism minister to quizzical looks. The president insisted that the Balearics were on their way to becoming the world's first circular tourist destination. Does Negueruela's integration therefore mean the reuse and recycling of tourists themselves?
Sustainability and more sustainability
Sustainability was on everyone's lips and so in everyone's presentations. Catalina Cladera of the Council spoke about the Sustainability Observatory to an audience comprising the tourism minister and not many others, and Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá observed that sustainability will be fundamental for post-pandemic tourism, the immediate as well as longer-term future. The Meliá boss was caught up in the inevitable prediction game. The future is bright, from around April on, but the rest of the winter's looking difficult. It's that pesky Omicron.
Germany on its way
Nevertheless, TUI announced that it would be bringing forward its flight schedule to mid-February. There was great demand in Germany, the tour operator said. Indeed, and most of it will be on two wheels. Happy days again beckon for island drivers who have become unaccustomed to cursing cyclists but who will now need to be ever more aware of rules of the road (and potential fines) under revised traffic law.
The Spanish priority
The early German invasion planned by TUI was not in keeping with how President Armengol viewed matters. Spanish tourism is "our primary objective", she told the Spanish audience in Madrid. The Berlin ITB fair in March will not be face to face and as chummy in a non-socially distanced manner as Fitur, but it will be virtual and so offer the opportunity to state that German tourism is the primary objective, which is how it should be, given that there are more German tourists than any others and that almost 50% of all German tourists who came to Spain in 2021 made the Balearics their destination.
As for the second-placed Brits, and everyone else for that matter, plans will have to be in place to ensure that Covid jabs are up to date. The last dose on the Covid passport can be no further back than 270 days, the Spanish government let it be known.
For use in the Balearics, the High Court, to the surprise of no one, approved an extension of the Covid passport for bars, cinemas, etc. to February 28, a requirement that will have those who protested in Palma last weekend inclined to take to the streets again. Just over a thousand protesters, said reports. Thousands, suggested a Bulletin front page. As ever, these numbers are somewhat open to interpretation. But there was little doubting that the protest pointed to a hardening of battle lines between the two restaurants associations, one sympathetic to passports, the other not.
So used have we recently become to ridiculously high Covid numbers that a breaching of the 200,000 cases in the Balearics mark passed with barely a murmur. Do you know when the 100,000 mark was reached? October 15, 2021. In the space of little more than three months the number had doubled, and no one batted an eyelid, as Omicron has so changed the rules of the data game and the perception of Covid, even if Omicron is for now suppressing business confidence and tourism.
In the Balearics, Omicron - we learned - now accounts for some 95% of all cases, the great majority of whom are affected no more than by having to go off sick for seven days because of self-isolation regulations. With the Spanish government urging caution in rushing to draw too many conclusions because of consecutive daily falls in new cases, a close eye still had to be kept on the hospitals, where the rate of ICU Covid occupancy per 100,000 in the Balearics was the highest in the country but where the rate of ward admissions was just below the national average.
Still, might the so-called sixth wave really have peaked? We'll find out soon enough.
When January can be bliss
Normally at this time of the year, the health concern would be flu, which advances in January as a result of the impact of travel over the holiday period. A further concern can be cold weather, and there was a good deal of that last week. Below zero temperatures were widespread on the island. Early risers had to scrape the ice of windscreens, but the later risers were grateful for the sun. For a few days, it was like January should be in Mallorca and often is. Cold at night but with beautiful clear skies, a warm sun and minimal breezes by day. #BetterInWinter? Sometimes.