Opinion: Nick Gibbs
When we first reported on the idea of banning all inclusive holidays earlier this year it seemed one of the more fanciful ideas coming out of Palma.
However according to reports in the Diario de Mallorca this week – notably picked up by the majority of the UK press – the regional Government are just about set to proceed with their strict controls on the all-inclusive sector.
In true-to-form fashion, even such draconian action cannot be undertaken in anything of a straightforward manner. The Mallorcan daily suggests a raft of regulations so bewildering and confusing that it will be a contender for the number 1 spot in the Balearic Bonkers charts.
No Free Booze
The prime objective in the regulations is to restrict open access to alcohol in all inclusive hotels.
The Government feel that the free bars, always an integral part of the all inclusive package, result in anti social behaviour. In that they may have a point, though they will be the first region of Spain, or anywhere worldwide, that is either so confident in the strength of their tourism market, or so determined in their moral responsibility, that they will impose that view on their visitors.
There will be some, particularly among small business owners, who will be glad to see the back of the all-inclusives that have kept people in the hotels and out of the bars and cafes. But let us be clear in terms of assessing the Government position – there is not one mention of a desire to support local businesses. Any benefit they derive will be coincidental, and in so far as the governments intentions are concerned, inconsequential.
The controversial proposals are in the final stages of drafting and, if implemented, will mean a tough new stance on all aspects of all-inclusive hotels, including a halt to free and unlimited alcohol in the bars.
The Diario de Mallorca summarises the regulations as:
- Any guest wanting a drink anywhere in the hotel or grounds will have to be served by a waiter.
- Only drinks served in the dining room with lunch or dinner may be included in the tariff.
- All drinks served outside of the dining room at any time of day or night must be paid for by the guest at the time they are served.
- There will be no free access to beers or alcoholic drinks in fridges.
However, many hotels may not be able to offer even this vastly reduced service due to new rules on registration.
All hotels wishing to offer this new type of alcohol-free all-inclusive tariff, or to put it a way many tourists will see it, NOT an all-inclusive tariff, must register with the government. Currently there is voluntary registration in force.
They will then only receive their licence if they can prove that they can serve 70% of their clients simultaneously when the hotel is full. This is introduced in a move to ‘improve customer service and reduce queues’.
So try to figure that one out. The plan is to ban what the customer wants, but then put in place a system that means the customer does not have to queue as long for the thing they want, but are no longer allowed to have, so wouldn’t be in the queue anyway.
But then as no hotel could fulfill the 70% simultaneous service standard at their capacity occupancy, it is academic anyway. The tourist only has to be told that were the hotel able to fulfill those impossible requirements, they would not have to queue as long for the thing they want, but are no longer allowed to have.
You can see the glowing Tripadvisor reviews rushing in.
There are also plans to ban single-use plastic plates, cutlery and cups. Though this will be broadly welcomed, some will see it as a cheap addition of some environmental purpose to a plan that is in no way driven by environmental concerns.
ABTA Holiday Habits
Official data suggests there are 270 all-inclusive establishments in the Balearics, though the current voluntary register means that figure could be substantially more.
In their end of year Holiday Habits report, the Association of British Travel Agents, ABTA, put the all-inclusive market at 17%, which is corroborated by the Balearic Tourism estimate of 15-20%.
The key issue here is that the all-inclusive client starts with that criteria. In my opinion there will be very few tourists intending to book all-inclusive, who would start with Ibiza and then on discovery no such thing as all-inclusive exists, would shrug and look at bed and breakfast options.
The all-inclusive tourist wants it for a reason. They want the fixed budget, most typically because they are a family group. If these changes are passed, the all-inclusive traveller will never even see Ibiza, or Mallorca or Menorca, as options in their search.
Ibiza will be effectively wiped off the map for that 17% of tourists.
Another fact I discovered in the ABTA report is that the fastest growing sector of tourism is for music events. Music centred holidays have risen from effectively nothing to 9% in just a few years. We do not seem to be wanting any of that tourism business either, so that is a total of 26% of tourism the Balearic Government says we can do without.
If you are a believer in negative press the new regulations are already taking their toll in in the UK press, who are billing it in the context of the Balearics doing yet more to squeeze the fun out of a holiday.
The Bonkers Balearics
Once passed, these regulations would leave us with:-
- What are in likelihood the greatest level of restrictions on entertainment (live music, decibel levels etc) in the Mediterranean
- Among the greatest level of restrictions on opening hours (Ibiza town retail ban, west end early closing etc) in the Mediterranean
- The only region in the world (perhaps with some religious exceptions) that does not permit the all-inclusive tourism model
- Among the highest accommodation costs in the Mediterranean
- The highest subsistence costs in the Mediterranean, (food, drink, clubs etc)
- A high level of street crime showing no indication of resolution
- And to seal the deal we are one of the few regions in the Mediterranean that then tax you on arrival for the privilege of staying here.
All the price premiums plus all the restrictions. No, no, no, no, no – the Ibiza tourism model reminds me of the welcome Sex Pistols front man John Lydon talks of from 1970s London landlords, who would routinely hang a sign in their window saying – “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”.
Ibiza Seeks Exemption
- Update 23rd August
Vicent Torres, insular director of Tourism, said yesterday that this regulation is out of place in Ibiza because on this island the all-inclusive is a minority, is focused on family tourism and does not generate any problem: “Your application would greatly harm the family tourism of Ibiza,”he said when addressing the Regional Government in Mallorca.
Torres went on to outline why Ibiza should be considered differently. “It is a problem that affects Mallorca much more than Ibiza”, Torres said, “There is no such debate here, so we do not agree with these changes on our Island. The Consell will request an exception for Ibiza if this regulation comes into force”. He believes that it would be legally feasible because “it would not be the first case in which exceptions were made for specific islands, it has already happened in urban issues, for example”.
The island director of Tourism made these statements after hearing the harsh criticisms made yesterday by the hotel Federation pitiusa against “the claim to prohibit the inclusion of alcohol in the all-inclusive mode”, something that hoteliers describe as “a new round of regulatory nuts that reduces competitiveness”.
The new president of hoteliers, Ana Gordillo, said that ” ‘all-inclusive’ in Ibiza is more associated in to family tourism. That is something good. Some of the Hotels offering all-inclusive are far from town and it is good that there is that offer of all-inclusive.
The hoteliers have threatened legal action for compensation in loss of income, should the measures be forced upon them.