Thursday, September 16

Dismantling quality tourism


Without a doubt, this has been an atypical summer for tourism. To the limitations and conditions established with the aim of stopping the expansion of the coronavirus by the authorities, it has been necessary to add the effects of the Brexit, the political and social instability of certain tourist destinations in North Africa and Asia, etc. This has meant that, in the case of those areas of the State as a whole that, traditionally, received mainly foreign tourism, these have been taken over by local visitors or by nationals of certain countries whose presence, until now, used to seem anecdotal or exotic. In the case of destinations that seemed to be experiencing a period of lethargy, such as Menorca, the sustained presence of French tourists or the inauguration of the Hauser & Wirth art gallery in Illa del Rei, already reported in this newspaper, have unleashed certain euphoria and hopes for what has come to be called “quality tourism”.

Among the characteristics of what we have come to call postmodernity there is the dissolution of the traditional structures that gave meaning to social life, extreme relativism or the resignification of long-established concepts. It is in the latter case that we could find precisely what has been called “quality tourism”. The complete separation of the usual signifier and meaning “quality” has allowed the radical transformation of the latter, as well as its placing at the service of the productive and political elites, in such a way that this type of tourism appears not only as something acceptable, but even desirable. So, nowadays, it is impossible to face a summer season without hearing expressions such as, “we must change the tourism model for a quality one” or “we need to bet on quality tourism”, always referring to the fact that the current model or current tourists are not of sufficient quality to be acceptable or desirable.

The concept quality refers to the set of properties of something, so that something will have “quality” in that it is possible to find in it the constituents that give it meaning and shape. For example, bread is mainly made up of cereal flour, water, and salt. If any of these components is not in the right amount or, directly, is missing, it is then that we could say that it is not a quality bread. In relation to tourism, according to the World Tourism Organization, is that activity carried out “by a person who travels to a main destination other than his usual environment, for a duration of less than one year, for any main purpose (leisure, business or other personal reason) other than to be employed by an entity resident in the country or place visited “. In this way, “quality tourism” would be one in which one person, or a group of them, carries out precisely that activity and not another: they are out of their usual destination, are less than a year old and do not work . Any breach of these premises would place it outside of what we could call “quality”.

It is true that we could label the previous definition as not very flexible or even old-fashioned, but it is the one that is normally used to describe tourism and the one that is taught in the schools of the sector, and that has to mean something. However, contemporary Western society, submerged as it is in the maelstrom of postmodern values ​​and mechanisms, has turned this concept upside down. Nowadays, quality tourism is not one that remains faithful to its constituent principles, but one that spends significant amounts of money at its destination and, in addition, maintains a behavior that we could call civic, that is, adequate to what is expected. in a person of a social class with a certain consumption capacity.

As can be guessed, among the characteristics of postmodernity we also find the capacity given to language to construct reality. The mere creation and sustained mention of certain expressions seem to be able to materialize certain social and material processes. In this way, when it is said “we must change the tourism model for a quality one” or “we need to bet on quality tourism” it is expected that, in a consistent way, this fact will not only appear as possible and desirable, but also easily achievable. However, as with many other things, the will and creative use of language is not enough for this. It is necessary to put in place a whole battery of measures and policies that make it possible to achieve the proposed objective. And that is where the limitations begin to appear.

Getting a destination to attract quality tourism is not easy, although there are some basic premises: creating adequate facilities and hotel infrastructures for this type of visitor (5 * and Luxury Hotels), having easy access and high connectivity (airports, airports , highways), provide the destination with activities and establishments of interest to this type of tourist (exclusive restaurants), etc. However, as much as this type of offer can be induced or even created from the public sector, in the end it is the private sector that has to come, through investments, and make such premises tangible. Now, that a certain destination, such as the case of Menorca, is committed to quality tourism through the development of this type of elements, does not mean that the mass tourism that had been occupying its place will disappear. Moreover, it can even be increased, since greater connectivity and improved infrastructure can facilitate the arrival of companies that take advantage of them (airlines low cost, agencies, tour operators, etc.) and, furthermore, the mere spectacle of luxury and sophistication can end up acting as an attractive resource. If it is difficult to stimulate investments that allow attracting tourists with high purchasing power (always in competition with other territories), it is even more difficult to limit the supply of previously existing tourism or prevent mass tourism from taking advantage of the established advantages. In the end, one tends to join the other, in such a way that, although initially both can coexist, with the consequent overcrowding, with the passage of time only one can survive, the one with the greatest attraction capacity and number, mass tourism. .

On the other hand, it is also not very clear that this quality tourism is truly behaving in a civic way and appropriate to its social class. In the case of Menorca, with a population devoted to tourist work, it is enough to pay attention to listen to stories of how, inside the highest category hotels or in the most luxurious houses, it is possible to find protected species or stolen archaeological remains. used as decorations and centerpieces, in addition to the inappropriate use of yachts and boats that, anchored in prohibited areas, sweep up the seagrass meadows or crowd and even get stuck in certain marine routes. This is not to mention that the very characteristics of tourism, which as an economic activity is one of the sectors with the least redistributive capacity, make it generate low-paid, temporary jobs with little capacity to influence other sectors with higher added value, such as technological or industrial.

In short, the so-called quality tourism is not a panacea, currently acting as a simple narrative resource on the lips of politicians and businessmen. The best tourism policy is one designed to reduce, as far as possible, the touristification of complete areas of natural territories, towns and cities, and the promotion of productive diversification (in the most developed countries of Northern Europe, tourism does not reach 3% of GDP), while respecting the labor rights of workers in the sector and it is monitored that their development does not end up having an unsustainable environmental cost.



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