There is currently a debate raging about the future of Mojácar’s tourism.
To understand the debate, you must understand that Spain attempts to quantify tourism into neat little socio-economical blocks, which academics can then pigeonhole into whatever half assed plan the politicos come up with.
So we have many different types of “theoretical” types of tourism, such as turismo rural, where people go and stay in a rural hotel; turismo gastronomico, which are tourists attracted by the cuisine of a place – you can break down these budding gourmands into such categories as Neo-alimentación, where the gastropod travels far to go to a nouvea cuisine restaurant (think of the sort of person who goes to Barcelona just to try out El Bullí) or Tradicional, where people travel to Garrucha just to try the gambas, or Los Gallardos for the gurullos. Or you may have Ictioturismo, anglers; turismo social, where people go on holiday to help the less fortunate; etc. All attempts to work out why you spend your money travelling, in an attempt to lure you into a certain resort. The best, to my mind, is turismo residencial, residential tourism: people who buy holiday homes here for their holidays.
Mojácar is firmly in the bed of the traditional sol y playa, people who come for the sun and the beach, and turismo residencial. Nobody is debating this, and anyone who tries to suggest that we should aim for the turismo cultural or the turismo gastronomico are usually laughed out of the room. Although Pedro Rodriguez is having some success with his Mojacar Tours taking tourists to cultural hotspots across the province in pre planned personalised “safari” trips.
This leads to interesting debates such as this one from El Almeria, in which local businesspeople and politicians decry the current influx of drunken teenagers / young adults, in a type of tourism called avion-discoteca-avion : plane to disco and back again, a model pioneered by Ibiza.
Says María Luisa Pérez, councillor for citizen safety in Mojacar: “It is rare to pass through Mojácar at night and not see drunks playing at bullfighting with a towel and a passing car”. (You’re the councillor for citizen safety love, you call in your police force!)
Miguel Zamora, another councillor who’s in opposition (and currently head of the PSOE party in town), says that “a chiringuito should not be a disco from the early hours of the afternoon until late. It is a disaster. This is a tourism which sleeps on the beach, paying only a few euros for an inflatable and the rest on their drinks. And then when they come out [completly bladdered] they smash a window in passing or destroy a bin”. He continues his thoughts on his blog here.
Mayoress Rosa Maria Cano agreed that there is a problem with drinking in Mojacar and reminds us that in 2008 she banned public drinking (botellones). She also says that it is difficult to control the current problems: “nobody has any money, drinks in bars are expensive, so the youths take to the streets and the parks in defiance of the rules. It is difficult to know what to do”.
Gabriel Flores, councillor, says that the townhall is refusing to enforce regulations making beach bars comply with opening hours. He also makes an interesting point that I agree with 100%: surrounding towns are subsidising drinking in Mojacar, via the buho bus (the nighttime bus service). In short, by paying for the bus service, towns such as Garrucha or Vera dump all theirs youths in Mojacar where they can drink until dawn.
Karin Schröter of ACEM has the last word: “this situation has arisen because the politicians have not bothered drawing up a strategic plan for tourism in the town”.
In all, people are agreed that there are too many drunken youths in town destroying the place and scaring off the richer and older class of tourists. They also blame the townhall, which isn’t working with other towns to draw up an integrated tourism plan (because it would sideline Mojacar).
A few months ago I wrote an article guessing on the future of Mojacar and the Levante, which can be read here (The future of Mojácar…. gazing into a crystal ball). I argued then that Mojacar would be sidelined over the next few years as all major infrastructure for the region is going towards Vera / Garrucha – new roads, the AVE station, development areas, commercial centres, all go there. Mojacar is basically sidelined in the POTALA plans.
And I think Mojacar needs to realise this. It’s at a point where it can go down two roads: sol y playa, or residencial tourism.
Garrucha, for example, is a nice place to spend the evening, walking up and down the paseo. It’s easily connected, a nice sea front and harbour, a small street market in summer, lots of good bars, cafes and restaurants, and lots of poeple. Mainly families or older couples, spending money. People drive there of an evening to enjoy themselves.
Mojacar, on the other hand, has no paseo (due entirely to the corruption and inefficiency of the different townhall administrations over the last 20 years), and is split into many different regions with no easy communication between them. Police patrol the dark areas between the zones, no proper public transportation exists (it’s full of puking kids) and if you want to go out, you have to choose a spot and stick with it. Result: lots of drinking places and people stuck in those areas, so you get a lot of drunken people with no family atmosphere. Conversely, you do get zones where the families go, because there are places for them.
The townhall can’t really do much about these zones at the moment, because all bar owners believe August is the only month anyone makes any money and if the townhall attempts to enfore the bylaws ordering bars to close at a decent hour they’ll be ignored and pilliored. And so nothing gets done.
But the flip side of the coin is the interesting article about Mojacar in this weekends El País, entitled “the corner of a thousand and one nights“. A happy article, mainly about chringuito Maui Beach, “a small refuge from the world that is always open”. It encourages tourists to come to Mojacar to enjoy sardines on the beach, the laid back atmosphere of beach bars, live music and sunny beaches. In short, the traditional haunt of Mojacar.
That’s what makes Mojacar special. Laid back beach bars, lazy summer days by the sea and haunting little shops scattered through a wonderful mountain town. Late night intimate drinking with good friends. Quiet and happy times you remember fondly. That’s why people came, that’s why people stayed.
So if Mojacar wants to get tourism back on track, the solution is simple. Encourage the good old days back. Stop the drunken youth from other towns from being paid to come here and vomit in our street corners. If a bar is consistently causing drunken youths to spew back out onto the streets, remove its’ late hours opening license, and only let the better quality of bar open until late. Improve access between zones, get rid of the horrendous traffic queues and smarten the place up a bit. Designate certain areas tourist zones and encourage bars to congregate there, mixing up bars, ice cream parlours and restaurants with the chiringuitos. Remove the licenses from badly behaved bars and encourage the better class of establishments. Draw up a strategic plan for tourism and stick with it. And don’t be afraid to enforce the laws that you pass.
But, whatever you decide to do, don’t keep your head in the sand as you are at the moment. Wake up and smell the coffee, because in another couple of years it’ll be too late – Mojacar will be the sinktown of the area, while Vera and Garrucha get all the rich tourists.