There is an incredibly boring, yet long, article in today’s La Voz de Almería by Luciano Alonso Alonso, Andalucian Minister of Tourism, Commerce and Sport, in which he manages to quote Shakespeare, Washington Irving and Darwin whilst reflecting on the importance of tourism for Andalucia. All of them, of course, great exponents of tourism.
It seems that today is the World Day of Tourism (sadly, I missed the fireworks and free paella). Tourism, as Luciano points out, accounts for 11% of Andalucia’s economy, and employs “341,1 thousand people”. You’d think they’d pay more attention to it.
He twitters on at length about the “mystery” of Andalucia, the romance and intrigue that makes up the “Andalucian experience”. He reminds us of the “New Tourist of Quality”, to which we must aspire, a mythical beast who is attracted by Quality, Biodiversity, Cultural Heritage, Sustainability, Innovation and the like. Seriously, those are the words he used, and the Caps are his.
Somehow, he overlooks the fact that out of the 22 million people who visited Andalucia last year, probably 21,9 million of them sat on a beach and got sunburnt, before eating a large pile of fish and chips (or bratwurst).
The serious point that is lurking at the back of my mind is that Luciano Alonso2 is determined to encourage the growth of large hotel chains and travel agents. Fly hundreds of thousands of people in, put them in a nice properly organised chain of hotels and fly them out again. Keep them occupied with nice safe trips to the Alhambra or Seville centre. Nobody gets mugged, and no chance of food poisoning. Nice, neat, tidy, and doesn’t take up too much government time looking after the big chains who do this.
This is fine, up to the point where you realise that these people are on all inclusive trips and not spending anything outside of the hotel, so they don’t actually generate much wealth for the area. The hotels are owned by huge corportations, workers are shipped in for the season, and doors hidden to prevent the client from escaping the all inclusive pool side bar. Ask anyone in Mojacar this season – lots of people, but they’re on all inclusive deals so why would they spend money eating out?
This carries on from the whole attitude of the Junta, which is to move away from small family businesses and towards large corporate chains. Close down the chiringuitos, replace with steel monstrosities leased to suitable people. Make the running of small hotels so tied up in paperwork they are bought out by larger groups. Squeeze small travel agents out. Etc. Etc.
I mean, he twitters on about “biodiversity”, and the same section of the paper talks about the Junta’s plans for Las Salines in El Ejido. Ignoring the fact that it’s used as a rubbish dump, surrounded by greenhouses that pour thousands of tons of pesticide into it, and it’s next door to a massive pile of rubbish thats’ been on fire for almost eight weeks – the rubbish, by the way, was the last 10 years worth of agricultural plastic that the Junta paid someone to recycle, and was instead dumped in a hole next to a natural park. So Alonso, you’re talking rubbish.
The Junta is preparing its new five year plan for “General Plan for Sustainable Tourism” (the current one expires in 2011). The current plan is based entirely on what I outlined above: increasing hotels. The fly in, stay and fly out tourist. Not this mythical beast outlined by Luciano in his article. I’ve written about this before: Mojacar’s tourism future – quality or quantity?
The Junta continues to refuse to acknowledge the fact that the tourist who turns up is not the tourist they’d like. They seem to want eco-tourists with large wallets, or art critics on a touring trip of Spain’s history. Nice people, you can see them muttering, a person who you can have an enjoyable and informative chat with over a few Riojas in an upmarket taberna in Seville. Not the sunburnt lot who turn up with lots of kids and fill out the beach bars, restaurants and hotels in summer, and won’t wear a shirt in Lidl’s. You can almost see Luciano shuddering at the mental imagery.
Quality or quantity, that’s what Andalucia must decide. But it’s becoming too expensive for quantity (cheap flights take you to Greece or Turkey as well!), and too run down for quality. So what’s it to be, Luciano?
He finishes off with what is obviously a googled quote of Shakespeare’s, which I retranslate into English here: “Destiny shuffles the pack, but we are the players”.
“To guarantee the competitive capacity, and tourism leadership of Andalucia is not only in our hands, but in those of all those who form part of this great family which makes up tourism” he concludes.
I leave you to draw your own conclusions.