Celebrating World Tourism Day

Summer over, the season winding down, and so it was the perfect time to celebrate World Tourism Day; just when there were fewer tourists around. But for the various groups who chose Tuesday’s World Tourism Day to stage a protest, this would have come as something of a relief. “Tourism intensification” was the theme of the protest, thus making a change to tourist saturation or massification, a post-Covid revival in tourism having brought back memories of a much larger Palma protest in pre-pandemic days. That was styled as being anti-tourism or tourismphobic, but one of the protesters this week insisted that there was no tourismphobia; it was about tourism being integrated into “real sustainability” and compatibility with “the well-being of society”.

For the Balearic government and the Council of Mallorca, whose leaders were at Tuesday’s Night of Tourism gala event, the late-September reduction in tourist numbers nevertheless means sufficient numbers to support the theory of tourist redistribution away from the main months of summer. Otherwise, the gala emphasised - as if anyone needed any reminders - quality over quantity, sustainability and circularity.

The cold drop was more than just a drop

As luck would have it, the sun had its hat on and the skies were blue over Palma prior to darkness descending for the Night at La Misericordia. Protesters and gala participants alike were not at risk of a soaking, the weather at the weekend and on Monday having acted as its own reminder as to why tourist numbers do fall in autumn. The met agency Aemet had painted the island amber, but not everywhere - as is so often the case - experienced torrential rain, hail and high winds. In Cala Figuera, Santanyi, the rainfall was put at 163 litres per square metre; cars were washed away and houses were flooded. The cold drop had dropped, then evaporated for a time before making further threats later in the week.

2023 - good or bad?

With talk of September having in fact produced “record” tourist numbers (where have we heard that before?), autumn was not all gloom. The tourism industry has been saying that the final weeks of the season will be good but has been warning about next year. Indicators for 2023 were not good, observed Maria Frontera of the hoteliers federation at a tourism risk management conference.

In Santa Ponsa, the president of the local hoteliers, Christian Roses of the Pirates Village themed restaurant, accepted that indicators may not be fantastic, but there’s nothing much that he can do about war in the Ukraine, inflation, etc, so he’s getting on with what he can do. And in a welcome upbeat assessment, he pointed to better advance sales for 2023 than at this time last year for 2022.

The government’s social shield

The government has meanwhile been taking us back to the days of the pandemic and to when the ‘social dialogue table’ was a regular feature of our lives. This table has been reassembled because of those indicators. Ministers gathered with business and union leaders, and it was announced that there will be “social shield” measures to help businesses and citizens.

The unions, accepting that the season and employment have been good, were nevertheless suggesting that a combination of what might have been saved over the summer and social security benefits will be insufficient in the face of increased costs. Talk of a social shield might have taken account of reports from the Red Cross, the Food Bank and the church’s Caritas charity about there already being increased demand for food aid. They all anticipate further rises in requests for assistance, and not just food, over the coming months.

Squatter gangs in Palma

Squatting comes in different forms. One reason is because people are left with no alternative, the victims of hardship. Mostly all squatting has an element of social exclusion, but some of this comes with criminality. In Palma, a number of one-time bank branches have been taken over by squatter gangs. They cause trouble, threaten residents, create noise and sell drugs. They also invite kids on the run from detention centres and others who have decided to leave social services sheltered accommodation. Once the kids are in the squats, the gangs start to demand rent. These squats are also said to be centres of prostitution, and one of them is right by the Palma police headquarters, where there was a fight that required police intervention and which has been repeatedly denounced by residents.

Excess and sexual assault

A conference in Palma the other day heard from, among others, a Guardia Civil commander. It discussed the links between sexual assault and tourism of excess, observing that this type of tourism “creates conditions of possibility” for sexual assault to occur. One participant stated that resorts in Mallorca most affected by sexual assault are those where there is tourism of excess and where visitors are predominantly British. Sociologist Alejandro Miguel Novajra added that there is a “particular sexist discourse” associated with the behaviour of young Britons.

It wasn’t too difficult to work which resorts (or resort) he had in mind, and although there was no sexual assault involved, Magalluf offered another example of the excess. It was described as being a new craze but was probably just a one-off - a video in which a British tourist (male and carrying a bit too much weight) got naked and was lifted above his head by a giant of a club doorman, who is said to be something of a tourist attraction as he gets paid ten euros to be photographed for selfies.

Tourist in a coma after Magalluf attack

A different doorman, now no longer working in Magalluf, was at the centre of a report concerning an incident which happened at the end of June. This was something that was known about but which hadn’t truly surfaced until The Sun got hold of it a few days ago. Twenty-four-year-old Joshua Pesticcio from Cardiff was in an induced coma for a time after what was an apparently vicious assault by a doorman in Magalluf. The case has also raised issues regarding alleged police brutality and indifference. But perhaps as important is why it has taken so long to truly come into the public domain.