The holiday industry has always been a particularly important trade for countries in the Mediterranean, given their ideal climate to attract holidaymakers. The region contains many of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, and few Europeans haven't taken a trip to the area at some point during their lives.
But the Mediterranean countries' economies have been put through the ringer in recent years as a result of the global economic downturn and Eurozone fiscal difficulties, and this has negatively impacted on tourism within the region. Additionally, as austerity has kicked in across Europe, the amount of disposable income available to the average member of the public has meant that luxuries such as holidays have been sacrificed in favour of day-to-day living expenses.
With economic growth achieved in many countries over the last year or so, in the short-term at least the general public has been experiencing increased disposable income. This has seen holidaymakers and travellers flocking back to the Mediterranean region, in search of sun, sea, sand and searing temperatures. Some of the figures related to the region’s ability to attack holidaymakers are pretty impressive. Greece received 15 million visitors last year alone, while Spain played host to a pretty staggering 60 million holidaymakers.
The downturn in economic activity, and consequently travel, has resulted in some of the most established tourist destinations on the planet perhaps reigning in any sense of complacency they had about the industry. With tourists now returning to some of the world’s most popular sunspots, the countries in question are now reassessing the way that they wish to present their image, and the sorts of activities and behaviours that they wish for holidaymakers to engage in.
The 'Good Citizen Plan'
It is within this context that the Mallorcan capital of Palma has introduced its so-called 'Good Citizen Plan’. This scheme is intended to clean up the nation and significantly improve the image of the city with the intention of attracting a different sort of visitor in the future. The 'Good Citizen Plan’ has not been driven by the central authorities, police, or government, but instead by residents of the islands themselves.
Thus, central to the 'Good Citizen Plan’ is the new legislation which dictates that holidaymakers must dress appropriately and cover up at all times while walking through the city. This may not instantly appeal to those travellers who visit Palma in search of beaches, bars and booze, but it is evident that residents of the island are concerned about the extent to which the conduct of visitors was sullying the image of Mallorca.
Alvara Gijon, the Vice Mayor of Palma, has stated that while he wishes for Palma to continue to be viewed as a “relaxing city”, the intention is to rebrand the city with the aim of becoming a successful destination “over the next twenty years”. He also added that he hoped that other cities within the island would follow suit in the coming years.
The ‘Good Citizen Plan’ in Palma comes hot on the heels of the country of Qatar also initiating new regulations requiring visitors to dress with decency. The Qatari campaign urges tourists and foreign residents to respect the country’s strict dress code, and cover themselves accordingly at all times. While this particular decision is possibly more contentious than the Palma legislation, given the cultural differences between the Muslim world and the West, it is nonetheless indicative of a more general trend.
Attitude of Destinations Evolving
Successful destinations are now altering their attitude towards travellers. Whereas once upon a time anything was done to attract holiday makers to a particular result, and all were welcomed, it is now felt that attracting too many of the wrong sort of holidaymaker only serves to downgrade the image of a destination. While money will always talk, and ultimately destinations do not want to dissuade people from visiting them, the general consensus appears to be that certain types of behaviour were in fact doing more harm than good.
Travel board and holiday companies will have to plan their strategies going forward within the context of this new reality. From now on, the branding of a destination will be even more important than it has been previously. And actually creating and promoting the notion that visitors should respect and fit in with the unique culture of a particular area can actually make it more distinct and thus attractive to potential holidaymakers. This can be viewed as an opportunity rather than a headache.
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