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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible and United World
Number 7 December 2000

bulletFrom Readers
bulletVisit to Mallorca & Catalunya
bulletASSEMBLY 2000-2001
bulletInternational Youth Parliament
 · For a sustainable tourism
 · Charter
 · Towards an ethics of tourism
 · What tourism...?
 · To go on a vacation
 · Transverses
 · Seen from the South
 · Tourism as Trade
 · Rural Integrated Tourism
 · Market attack on culture
 · Unauthentic carpets
 · Iran
 · Agenda Local 21
 · Calviā (Mallorca)
 · Balearic Islands
 · Initiatives
bulletThe Artist
bulletReturn to ALLIANCE LIBRARY

For a sustainable tourism
"We were destroying beauty..."

Interview with Carolina Suau Bosch, co-ordinator of Agenda local 21
of the municipality of Calviā (Mallorca Island, Baleares, Spain)

Could you give us a few examples of projects from Calviā's Agenda local 21?

All the projects of demolishing hotels, efforts to recycle and the "Calviā European Winter" campaign. This campaign aims to extend the tourist season beyond summer so that hotels do not have to close for winter and people are employed in winter as well. We wish to extend the tourist season as long as possible to solve social problems brought about by seasonal work. We have a series of 800 activities absolutely free of cost for the tourist, ranging from guided treks in the mountains to 'Tai Chi' on the beach, or a course on making compost to learning Russian. This way we have succeeded in extending the tourist season. Due to this, the population of Calviā remains here through winter. Children go to school here and to the university here. We started this programme in keeping with entrepreneurs and unions. We have arrived at an agreement that estimates a raise in taxes by 15% in order to subsidize these activities.

The general layout plan was also very important because we have struck off the list about 1660 hectares of land that can be urbanized - which would have meant place for 40,000 hotels rooms. We cannot afford to construct anymore. We had to take this step to counter saturation. Calviā is a full and saturated municipality and we can no longer continue to expand.

How have the people responded to this initiative of Agenda 21?

Very well. I suppose we would have had a problem had Calviā not been a 100% tourist municipality. We all know that this is our future. The population knows that we cannot continue like before because, apart from other things, we are destroying the beauty that attracts tourists here and who in turn help us earn our livelihood.

What is the reaction of the population to see more than a million tourists in summer?

Good. Because tourism is our livelihood. There has been a marked evolution since the sixties. I was born with this number of tourists. People here are used to it. They now know of the impact it can have. We are aware that if there was a chemical or textile industry here, we would have had a different kind of contamination. We also know that tourism can cause a lot of damage to the environment. We must ensure that the damage is reduced as much as possible, for tourism is vital for our existence. There is no other industry in the municipality.

Before the sixties, what was the livelihood for Calviā's population?

Calviā's population was rural and very poor. People started leaving. There was a floating population of 1500 to 3000 according to the time of the year. There was no one on the coast. Today the municipality has 36 000 inhabitants and 50% of the population is under 30. Calviā is a young municipality with a young mentality which is very open to environmental issues. We are people born into the world of tourism.

All environmental, social and cultural problems faced by the municipality of Calviā are consequences of mass tourism. Isn't the problem related to this kind of tourism?

I do not think the problem has to do with the tourist who comes here. His behaviour is tolerable. He is the kind of tourist who goes to the beach, that is it. Tourists go to the beach opposite their hotel. It is the same thing for other tourist destinations like the Caribbean Islands or Cuba. They go from the hotel to the beach, from the beach to the discotheque. That is their circuit. They do not use cars: the tour operator takes care of their transport. It is a kind of tourist that looks for the same thing than in its country. This is what mass tourism is all about. It is also a family kind of vacation with young children and infants.

We wouldn't like any other kind of tourism. Let them come and remain on the beach opposite their hotel! Because having 1.5 million tourists walking through the streets of the municipality would be madness. If each tourist were to come here by himself and hire a car to visit the island instead of going through a tour operator, it would be impossible to manage.

Personally I would like the tourists to be interested in knowing my culture, but, from a professional point of view, it is better this way.

Tourism is our industry. The tourists are our clients. It is like owning a shoe shop. They come to buy shoes. How does it matter to you whether they know your factory or not as long as you manage to sell your shoes. Here we sell a service which is, vacations at Calviā. They come, stay and go back. It is a firm and our product is our municipality. We have integrated this very well. It is like Disneyland.

But Disneyland is artificial, this is not.

This is absolutely artificial. Magaluf (coastal zone of Calviā) is totally artificial. It is a destination created for tourists. It is a village on the sea shore created for British tourists. There is nothing genuine. The bars are English and the tourists go there because they like it. They find their "beans" here and the discotheque is called "Lady Di Pop". A look at the surveys conducted to know the clients' satisfaction tells us that each time they are more satisfied and would like to come back to Calviā.

Do you collaborate with other municipalities of Mallorca and the Mediterranean region?

Yes, since a year we have more contact with the rest of the island and the entire archipelago when they realised that our Agenda local 21 was not just hot air. As for the Mediterranean, we are part of the Mediterranean Committee for Sustainable Development.

Now that you have sufficient experience, what advice would you give to a municipality, Algerian for instance, that wishes to launch tourism?

At Calviā, whatever happened was due to lack of restrictive urban planning. Authorizations were given for constructions right next to the sea. A municipality in Algeria or Tunisia has now the opportunity to do urban planning for the development of tourism. It can impose a series of rules (use of solar energy, purifying stations, limited height of buildings etc.) on investors who are usually foreign chains of hotels. And they are used to it since it has almost become a norm everywhere in Spain. They are also made to conduct a study on the impact it has on the environment.

Would you encourage this municipality to attract mass tourism like in Calviā?

Controlled tourism certainly. It is an opportunity. The change over the last few years with Agenda local 21 has been tremendous. Many destinations in the Mediterranean are still like what we were before Agenda local 21. It is serious and very harmful. A number of municipalities in Mallorca and the Mediterranean continue to dump their waste water into the sea without purifying it. Those municipalities want more tourists as it means more money. At Calviā we were able to have a long term vision because we enjoy a favourable economic situation.

(Interview by Sylvie Payette & Philippe Guirlet, 27 October 2000)

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drawing of Calviā (Mallorca Island, Baleares, Spain)
© 2001 Alliance for a Responsible and United World. All rights reserved. Last updated March 7, 2001.