Sunday, 10 November 2013

Speakout Advanced p 41. Activists gather in Palma against tourist "saturation"

Various associations united under the name Tot Inclòs (all inclusive) organised two days of activities yesterday and today to highlight what they consider to be tourism over-exploitation of Palma. Among those taking part were representatives of the group for people affected by mortgages in Ibiza and of the Barcelona assembly for sustainable tourism.

Toni Pallicer, spokesperson for Tot Inclòs, said that in Ibiza there are people who have to leave rental accommodation in summer because prices are exorbitant. He added: "The intention of these two days has been to make people wake up and take action."

A general complaint from participants was that public investment is oriented only towards tourism and that basic infrastructures are therefore left in precarious situations. The Balearics, Pallicer observed, was one of the regions of Spain where there is more economic growth but also a fall in income per head of population. "Something's wrong."

Opinion was that the greatest damage being caused to Palma is from large cruise ships and the boom in holiday rentals. According to figures offered by Tot Inclòs, there have been more cruise passengers in Palma this year than ever before: more than one and a half million.

"The Mediterranean is becoming the luxury resort for northern European countries,  and those of us who were born here have ever fewer rights. The massive number of tourists in Palma has shades of neo-colonialism."

Among solutions proposed were an end to the promotion of Majorca as a tourist destination and the elimination or reduction of services offered by Palma town hall, such as the tourist card and free wifi in the streets.

At midday today there was an "anti-tourist" route - something that the Bulletin had drawn attention to last week - that covered parts of the city most visited by tourists. Explanations were given as to the impact of services for tourists on residents and public space in the city. Further debates were then had regarding ways to end tourist "saturation".

Related stories:

Mayor does not believe that Palma is "saturated"

Mayor José Hila and councillor Joana Maria Adrover (tourism, trade and employment) presented figures on Monday to show that summer employment in the city has been recovering to levels that existed in 2008 before economic crisis took hold.

Both mayor and councillor referred to the positive signs for employment and employers in the city, Hila observing that there has been a lengthening of the peak tourism season. This, he noted, was a good thing in that it provides more jobs.

As has been well reported, the increased tourism activity in the city has supposedly brought with it a downside as well as plusses in the form of jobs.Too many tourists have been making residents feel overwhelmed by their presence - the so-called saturation. Hila, however, did not believe that there was such a saturation. He accepted that in certain parts of the centre of the city residents may feel overwhelmed. But he didn't consider the increased numbers to necessarily be a bad thing, noting that Augusts of the past have produced similar situations.

He pointed to the introduction of different access points to the city for cruise-ship passengers as being a means of alleviating sensations of being overwhelmed, but his message was probably as political as it was social. While he was on holiday in August, Aurora Jhardi of Som Palma (Hila is with PSOE) stood in as acting mayor and announced that it was "clearer than ever" that Palma had reached its limit when it comes to tourism. She insisted that the time had come to "minimise the damage". 

Artist protests at tourist saturation in the Balearics


A Portuguese artist, Hugo Israel, yesterday staged an art performance on the beach of Es Molinar in Palma to draw attention to the threats to the Balearics from an imbalance between the current tourism boom and economic and ecological sustainability.

The "saturation" of tourists was marked metaphorically by the apparently inoffensive beach towels brought by tourists, symbolic of the apparent choking of the delicate ecosystems of the islands. The performance was designed to call for greater regulation and control of tourism in order to protect natural resources and ecosystems and to arrive at a sustainable solution for both residents and tourists to be able to continue to enjoy the natural beauty of the Balearics.

Israel, in researching his subject and inspiring the creative process, took a job as a kitchen helper. Through this, he was able, it is said, to experience at first hand the human consequences of what are described as "savage exploitation" from tourism in the Balearics. This exploitation, he suggests, includes working more than 12 hours a day, salaries beyond any legal control and precarious working conditions.

The artist believes that sustainable tourism is possible and absolutely necessary to protect the Balearics. In his view, if "tourist exploitation" continues at its current pace, it will eventually destroy the islands' landscapes and ecosystems. 

Scrapping tourism promotion is not an option


Bel Oliver, PSOE's organisational secretary in the Balearics, has responded to a call from Podemos that there should be no promotion of tourism to the islands. She said at a press conference yesterday that this is not an option, the Podemos proposal having been made as a means of avoiding so-called tourist "saturation", one of the themes of this summer.

Oliver offered her opinion when asked about criticisms from Podemos of the way in which this saturation has been handled by the government, i.e. PSOE and Més, of which tourism minister Biel Barceló is a member.

In more general terms, she also addressed the budgets for 2017. Podemos have been expressing some views on these - tourism promotion is an element, albeit a very small one - and are wanting discussion with the government regarding compliance with this year's budget. Oliver said that the budgets should reflect demands of parliamentary groups and that those for 2017 will be based on a new economic model that includes social, health and education improvements. 

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