Mallorca and Tourism: History, Economy and Environment

Mallorca and Tourism: History, Economy and Environment

by R. J. Buswell


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Mallorca and Tourism: History, Economy and Environment by R. J. Buswell

In the popular imagination, Mallorca is the archetypal mass tourism resort, one of the world’s pioneers of mass tourism, linking the resources of the Mediterranean to the supply of tourists from northern and western Europe. It is now attempting to better manage the ubiquitous transformational environmental and socio-economic impact of the industry. The book identifies and examines critically the major socio-economic and political forces that have played a significant part in the formation of the industry; the development of tourism as a business and efforts to diversify the tourism product as it move into the uncertainties of the 21st century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845411794
Publisher: Channel View Publications
Publication date: 05/15/2011
Series: ASPECTS OF TOURISM Series , #49
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Professor (Emeritus) R J Buswell was Head of the School of Behavioural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle until his retirement. A geographer, his main research has been in the historical and contemporary aspects of urban and regional development. He has been a visitor to and part-time resident in Mallorca for twenty years. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Institute of British Geographers.

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Mallorca and Tourism

History, Economy and Environment

By R.J. Buswell

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2011 R.J. Buswell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84541-180-0


An Introduction to Mallorca's Tourism and its Origins

Links between Past and Present?

To many Mallorcan writers on tourism there seems to be a strong connection between the perceptions of early visitors and the development of the modern industry, but, as we argued in the Preface, this link over such a long period of time is somewhat tenuous. In Chapter 4, we shall show that the development of mass tourism in Mallorca in the 1950s was a 'marked change of slope', a 'paradigm shift' in the history of tourism, a 'break with the past', not an evolutionary movement but a step-like change, the result of a government policy deliberately seeking non-tourist macroeconomic objectives tied to the development of the state. This is a somewhat different process from that described by writers such as Walton in their analysis of tourism and holidaymaking in Great Britain, although Barton points to certain similarities (Barton, 2005; Walton, 2002, 2009; Walton & Walvin, 1983). Mass tourism in Mallorca exhibits rather different characteristics from the historical development of seaside holidays in Britain's Blackpool or on Germany's Baltic coast. Nonetheless, early tourism in Mallorca and the relaying of its experiences did form some foundation for later growth. Thomas Cook may have organised tours to Mallorca and cruise liners in the 1930s may have called in at Palma, but there is little evidence from the literature that the British pioneers of mass tourism to the island were aware of, or influenced by, earlier visitors. Barton, however, provides a valuable insight into the role of 'sending' organisations in the 1930s and 1950s before the first wave of mass tourism took off in the late 1950s (Barton, 2004, 2005). Similarly, John Walton has given us a useful study of tourism in one corner of Mallorca in this early period (Walton, 2005).

However, the processes involved in the historical development of tourism are complex and recently Mallorcan researchers have given considerably more attention to what took place in Mallorca itself before the onset of mass tourism whereas most British writers see its take-off from the mid-1950s. Local researchers point in particular to the significance of domestic Spanish tourists in the 1920s and 1930s, a factor identified by Barke and Towner for mainland Spain and by others, notably Cirer, for Mallorca (Barke & Towner, 1996: 26; Caro Mesquida, 2002; Cirer, 2006, 2009). Chapter 3 will examine this in more detail.

Large-scale tourism – the prime concern of this book – may have its roots partly in pre–Civil War Mallorca itself, but it is our contention that it is mostly a feature of post–Second World War Europe, partly the product of Mallorcan opportunism and partly the product of British – and later German – entrepreneurship. Nonetheless, it is important to have some insight into early visits and visitors to Mallorca before tourism became widely organised commercially.

The Perceptions of Some 19th-Century Visitors from Northern Europe to Mallorca before about 1880

For many of those who initially visited the island as travellers it was the nature of Mallorca's microcosmic world that was a major attraction: here were plains, hills, vertiginous mountains, beaches and coves, forests and garriga (typical low-growing Mediterranean vegetation – maquis in French), a rural aristocracy and a landless peasantry in curious costumes – all within a day's journey from a Palma hotel. Added to this was the Mediterranean climate, especially in the winter when it had an added attraction for North Europeans, presenting the possibility of warm sunshine when much of the continent was snowbound. Further enquiry revealed a rich cultural heritage ranging from late Bronze Age stone structures – the talayots – to the fine medieval and renaissance buildings of a considerable city, Palma. In the countryside was a class of landed gentry and their improving estates – the possessions – some with formal gardens, most producing exotic tree crops such as figs, carobs and almonds, others vines and olive oil. What Mallorca and the other islands lacked historically, of course, was a proper link to Classical Antiquity, which, alongside its island location, was the major reason it was not on the itinerary of the Grand Tourists of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The island was invaded and settled by the Romans in the first-century BC but left few remains to attract the classicists, with the exception of the Roman town of Pollentia in the north, even now not fully revealed. Even if, as Barke and Towner explain, Spain may have had a burgeoning domestic leisure industry as early as the 18th century, Mallorca had few of the other 'attractions' that young English gentlemen required from such destinations as part of their broadening education (Barke & Towner, 1996: 22; Towner, 1996).

Amongst the early visitors – and even today the most famous – were George Sand (Madame Dudevant) and Frederick Chopin who came for health reasons in 1837. Sand initially found the island attractive, but she ended by loathing it. Her later accounts could surely have done little to attract future tourists (Sand, 1855).

British travellers in the 19th century observed the lack of facilities such as decent hotels for tourists. As early as 1809, Sir John Carr observed that Palma's inns were 'very few and very bad' though he himself was well accommodated (Carr, 1811: 331). Captain Clayton complained bitterly of his fonda, Tres Palomas (Clayton, 1869), and the American writer Bayard Taylor was cordially received at his fonda, the Four Nations, but '... afterwards roundly swindled' (Taylor, 1867–1868: 680). Charles Toll Bidwell noted: '... if Palma had a large and well-organized hotel ... its attractions would be increased, and more visitors would lighten it with their countenance ... Fifty years ago such a thing as an inn was said to be unknown in Majorca', although he points to recent improvements (Bidwell, 1876: 54). Many of these early visitors remarked upon the rather shallow social life and the unhealthiness of many parts of the island, with outbreaks of cholera and malaria occurring frequently. In addition, when faced with an often difficult sea voyage from Barcelona or Marseilles, it was hardly surprising that few north Europeans made Mallorca a destination.

Those who did visit found the island physically attractive, especially the mountains. E.G. Bartholomew, for example, a British engineer engaged in laying the first undersea telegraph linking the island to the mainland in the 1860s, called the scenery 'magnificently varied. The mountains bold in the extreme' (Bartholomew, 1869: 266). Captain Clayton, also writing in the 1860s, wrote rather extravagantly of Puig Major, the highest point in the island, 'Raised high above a region of mountain peaks, black stupendous gorges, and a wild chaos of riven rocks, shot up from the bowels of the globe in some primeval convulsion, soars the massive summit' (Clayton, 1869: 238). The ordinary people – the 'natives' – although described as content and friendly were often seen by the class-conscious British as insubordinate or over-familiar while the Mallorcan aristocracy and gentry were thought to be lazy and indolent. There is an almost anthropological thread running through many of these early narratives. For example, Charles Toll Bidwell, the British consul in the 1870s, wrote of the small farmers in the Albufera area:

The faces of the men were peculiar. A few were decent, but many were repulsive. After all what can be expected of them? What else can be the result of lowly birth, coarse surroundings, hard lives and scanty fare? Here a man of fifty is wrinkled and curved and looks eighty; a man of seventy might well have come out of Noah's ark. (Bidwell, 1876)

This kind of description is perhaps not so surprising given the imperial or colonial background of many British and French visitors. These early visits were, of course, largely before the beach and its sea bathing became an important resource for tourism and so there are few accounts of the seashore. What was more important was the cultural landscape: the churches, monasteries (before 1838), the city of Palma, the countryhouses and estates of the gentry. In any case, that is what so much of early tourism was about: the search for the exotic, the different, the 'other'. It was believed that there was no 'lesson' to be learned from Mallorca as there was from the remnants of classical Italy or Greece for the 18th-century Grand Tourists. The language – Mallorquin, a dialect of Catalan – added to the exoticism as did the ubiquity of the Catholic religion about which many Protestant visitors remained cautiously curious. Bidwell noted the peculiarity of street processions at the time of various fiestas. Many of the British gave the impression that the Inquisition was never far away. Perhaps these were also amongst the reasons why so few foreign visitors came to Mallorca. In 1875, Bidwell recorded '39 British, 119 French, 43 Italians, 13 Americans and 1 Swede' (Bidwell 1876: 20). American visitors were more frequent than might be expected especially those of a literary bent such as Bayard Taylor, a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain, whose account is rather more positive about Mallorca than most (Taylor, 1867–1868).

Some outsiders took a much more academic view of the island, describing and analysing its make-up in more scientific detail. The doyen of these was Archduke Ludwig Salvator (1847–1915), Ludwig Salvator d'Hapsburg-Lorena, ninth son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II – a descendant of the Austro-Hungarian emperors – and Maria Antonieta; he first came to Mallorca in 1867. He has become something of a legendary figure on the island partly because of his alleged prowess with local women but more important for us as a major influence on part of the island's western landscape. On his father's side, he was cousin of Franz Josef of Austria, assassinated at Sarajevo. He was born in the Pitti Palace in Florence, studied philosophy and natural sciences in Vienna and Prague and spoke at least nine languages, including Catalan and Castilian. He eventually owned land and large houses in Zindis near Trieste, Ranleh near Alexandria in Egypt and Nice as well as acquiring large areas in Mallorca. From the 1870s he built up a formidable estate in the north and west of the island that he proceeded, in part, to landscape mostly on romantic lines rather than use it as a source of agricultural wealth. He was fascinated by all things Mallorcan and even went as far as acquiring a Mallorcan mistress. However, his great literary work was Die Balearen, published in nine volumes in Leipzig from 1881. This gave detailed accounts of all aspects of the island: geography, history, economy, biology and anthropology. Although eventually translated into Castilian, regrettably, it has never been translated into English. How influential it was in attracting other German-speaking visitors to the island is doubtful. His legacy today lies more in his lands in and around the mountains that have helped form the basis for much of the hill walking now of increasing popularity in low-season Mallorca (Cañellas Serrano, 1997).

Navel and military personnel, especially French and British (e.g. see Carr, 1811), were another group of early visitors. Their presence was largely the result of competition between them for control of the western Mediterranean. Much of this interest declined by the mid-19th century, but the strategic location of Mallorca again became of interest to British and German concerns with the success of Franco in the Spanish Civil War and the possibility of Spain joining the Axis forces. But spies probably cannot be counted as tourists.

An Island in the Mediterranean

It is, in any case, very difficult to be sure that these early visitors and their perceptions of Mallorca were to influence the flow of commercial tourists in the late 19th century and after, but clearly the fact that Mallorca was an island gave the place a certain intrinsic fascination, even intimacy (Trauer & Ryan, 2005). Some have seen the Balearics and indeed many other Mediterranean islands as stepping stones – an idea promoted earlier by Braudel (1992: 116) – that they were places on the way to somewhere else, but in the case of Mallorca its history suggests that it had a distinct and separate identity and culture. It was not simply 'on the way to somewhere'; it was 'somewhere' in its own right. This simple idea will become important in our consideration of the development of the Mallorcan economy and the role of tourism within it. Mallorca was not a place apart nor isolated from wider European cultural events because it was a small dot in an ocean. Historically, it developed rich cultures of its own based partly on this very connectedness. For a brief period Mallorca had actually been a kingdom with continental possessions – more of a launching pad than a stepping stone. It is not possible here to go into the origins of this cultural distinctiveness, although we shall return to it when considering aspects of modern development of cultural tourism. However, by the 20th century, the enterprise of Mallorcan businesses that developed mass tourism was in large part based on their economic historical experience dating from the late 18th century and their knowledge of the workings of the wider Spanish state under various leaders from Mendelez to Franco and later still of an even wider European economy under a democratic system that was eventually to make Mallorca one of the richest places in the country and the European Community.

If there is a set of internal, place-specific, factors that help us to understand the early development of the tourism industry in the Balearic Islands – and in Mallorca in particular – it is intimately bound up with their Mediterranean context spatially, environmentally and temporally. The climate, the vegetation, geology and landforms – their physical landscapes – are at once easily identified with the classical characteristicsof this 'middle sea'. Indeed, islands are an important part of any definition of what is Mediterranean. As we shall see, 'Mediterranean' can have many meanings to different social and political groups but in most of them the sea and the interconnectedness of places is central. If the sea is a 'constant', then the various landfalls must include the coastal perimeter and the intervening islands. Indeed, islands in the Mediterranean, since most of them are small, are perhaps more typical of mediterraneanism than the continental coastlands because at least one definition of 'Mediterranean' is the climatic one, which, of course, extends inland, often formerly defined by certain distributions of vegetation, most noticeably of the olive. It is this physical Mediterranean that formed such an important resource base for the tourism industry and so an analysis is given in a subsequent chapter. In the post-modern world of mass tourism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, most environmental influences are relegated below ubiquitous cultural ones.

But the Mediterranean is more than a physical entity or set of physical characteristics; it is also an historical concept, which some date from the Romans' notion of it being their sea or from their viewpoint, mare nostrum, 'our sea'. This led to the idea that if there was some kind of geographical hegemony asserted by the Romans through their Empire, then a unity of culture might be possible across it. This, in turn, led (eventually) to Braudel's well-known historical work that was – as was the case of so much 20th- century French history – influenced by geography, first of a deterministic physical kind and later by the more possibilistic ideas of Vidal de la Blache. It is thought that the idea of a physical unity to the Mediterranean may well have been shaped by the Renaissance painters and the effect of an education based on the classics. Later in British Public Schools, at least, the subject of geography was really an adjunct to the history of the classical period; it was where history happened, and the 'places' of that history had to be learned and construed as much as the classic texts. The interconnectedness of places that persuaded Braudel to see a unity of experience and culture in the Mediterranean brought about by ship technology, trade and notions of Empire might also have been influenced by the fact that he spent some of his early life as a lycee teacher in Algeria, part of the French Empire, across this sea. His view of islands, that they were stepping stones between the more important centres located on the various mainlands, is a view more recently reiterated by David Abulafia who saw Mallorca as a hub at the centre of many trade routes (Abulafia, 2002: 48).


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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Mallorca's Tourism and its Origins Chapter 2: Environmental Resources, Perceptions and Constraints for Tourism Chapter 3: The Historical Development of the Tourism Industry from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Mid 1950s Chapter 4: ‘When Majorca Was Spelled with a ‘J’: The First ‘Boom’ of the 1960s Chapter 5: From Crisis to Crisis 1973-2010, with a Continuing Boom in Between! Chapter 6: Environmental Impact and Sustainability Chapter 7: Policy and Planning for Tourism Chapter 8: Economy, Business and Politics Chapter 9: New Markets and Diversification Chapter 10: Future Trends

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