According to Pedro Iriondo, president of the Majorcan Tourist Board, the millions of Britons who travel annually to Majorca on budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryan Air are not quality tourists. Perhaps he’d like to share his views with David Cameron who recently celebrated his wife’s birthday with a Ryan Air trip from Stanstead to Granada?
Today when I popped into Soller, my local town, to offer assistance with a new tourism initiative promoting the valley, there was embarrassment at Iriondo’s almighty clanger. Shop owners thrust the Diario de Mallorca in my direction, a newspaper brimming with news of the fiasco, and offered an apology on behalf of the Majorcan people. British residents and newly arrived tourists were quick to express outrage at his bizarre opinions.
Unfortunately, the insults against us Britons did not stop there. During Mr Iriondo’s speech at a tourism forum, he declared that budget airlines from the British isles never brought business clients to Majorca and that those travellers who flew on them were wont to stay in non-regulated properties owned by fellow Britons. Other foreigners didn’t escape the president’s wrath. He lamented the fact that many immigrants such as South Americans and Africans were working in Majorcan hotels. “How can they sell Majorca to the tourist?” he quizzed. Well, Mr Iriondo, these immigrants may not know a sobrasada sausage from an ensaimada pastry but they are diligent and work for low wages without complaint, something many Majorcans might balk at.
Admittedly the Majorcan Tourist Board which has been in existence for more than one hundred years, is an independent body and no doubt feels it can act with impunity. It takes orders neither from the regional Balearic government, nor the excellent Spanish Tourist Office, and is financed by large hotel groups on the island, and dare I say it, my favoured Majorcan bank. However, such arrogant attitudes impact on the local economy and can prove hugely damaging. There is no room for bigotry and what amounts to xenophobia on an island that feeds off tourism.
In the last few years we commuting expats, mostly business people bringing revenue to the island who travel between Majorca and London, have regarded the budget airlines as a lifesaver. We might moan about the surcharges and the petty rules, but if Ryan Air and easyJet withdrew their services, there would be no regular daily flights all year round from the UK. To be blunt, without these airlines, Majorca could kiss goodbye to the British market, quality clients or not.
Taking up Mr Iriondo’s point about non regulated rental properties, it is true to say that many Britons provide villas and apartments to holidaymakers. So too do local Majorcans who make a tidy profit from the venture, and why not? They serve clients who support the local economy and who would otherwise take their custom elsewhere, most probably to a less expensive holiday destination.
The problem of course does not rest entirely with poor beleaguered Pedro Iriondo, who ran his own island travel agency during the good old days. What he ably demonstrates is an inability by the old guard to move with the times and to use innovation to inspire and attract the independent, modern day tourist. Caught in a time warp, he and his kind dream of an era when mass tourism brought in oodles of happy and unquestioning holidaymakers during a period when the pound gave the peseta a run for its money.
Now, the internet has spawned a legion of independently minded and savvy travellers across the social spectrum looking for the best deals and –perish the thought- travelling on budget airlines so that they have more to spend when they arrive at their chosen holiday destination.
Although the Balearic government has distanced itself from the local tourism chief’s remarks, even calling for his resignation, the fall out within the tourist board itself has been negligible. Mr Iriondo and his fellow dinosaurs genuinely fail to see what they’ve done wrong. And that surely, is the real tragedy?
Please feel free to comment on this article. All comments are moderated, so it will appear after I have checked it. Thanks!
Please sign up here for my monthly e-newsletter.