Tourism Focus: Spanish tourism and elections

I am not necessarily convinced by the businessman as minister argument

After the 2019 election, Iberostar’s chief operating officer, Aurelio Vazquez, said he would consider entering politics if the center-right had won. It was an option for a senior figure in Mallorca’s hotel industry who had already announced he would be leaving Iberostar. The former president of the Hoteliers Federation of Mallorca Vasquez said this tourism should be managed by a political party it is “not sectarian or demagogic” when it comes to tourism. There needs to be “constant, rational dialogue”.

His remarks, it was concluded, were taken as a criticism of the state tourism administration of the Balearic Islands under the leadership of Bel Busquets of Mes. As if to emphasize this, he added that he agreed with Gabriel Escarer of Meliá and other hoteliers who are from believe that tourism would be best under the PSOE. The centre-right may not have won the election, but the PSOE are the next best option and he believes they will “reach a consensus with the hotel industry”.

The election did bring about this change in political governance. PSOE’s Iago Negeruela took over the tourism portfolio that PSOE tried to wrest from Més during the resignation of Biel Barceló from Més. The PSOE felt relatively comfortable Barceló at the Ministry of Tourism; Busquets was another matter.

After leaving Iberostar, Vasquez became Senior Director of Asset Management at HIP, Hotel Investment Partners, responsible for the group’s Balearic Islands portfolio; HIP is a subsidiary of the investment management company Blackstone. A few months after this post, he said in an interview that devoting himself to politics would be his next step – to politics and to as Minister of Tourism.

It was reported last week that Vázquez’s name had been mentioned frequently in recent weeks as a possible number two candidate on the Partido Popular’s electoral list for the Balearic Islands parliament. Was his name mentioned often? First time hearing it, that was for sure. Also last week it was briefly reported that this was definitely the case. Then there was a rapid shift in reporting. Vasquez was not going to be number two. Moreover, PP leader Marga Prohens has not even considered this as a possibility. So it was said.

How did this situation arise yes he will no he won’t? Was it related to what he had said earlier? There must have been some basis, only to be swiftly and categorically denied. Who can say. But then we’re in election mode, and at a time when campaign stories have to make headlines, even if they turn out to be inaccurate. And like tourism is a major election issue, it is perhaps easy to see how all this might have happened. Vasquez had certainly sent signals by saying that politics and tourism businessmen should go hand in hand. Indeed, but that was four years ago.

It is said often enough that the political management of tourism in the Balearic Islands (and not only the islands) would benefit from having a businessman, as this person would bring first-hand knowledge to the portfolio. Since the creation of the regional government of the Balearic Islands in 1983, there have been only one minister is bogged down in tourism (and in the hotel sector) and it was the first ever Minister of Tourism, Jaume Cladera. But then the position of general director, certainly with Negueruela, was taken by someone with business experience in the sector – first Rosanna Moriyo and now Isabel Vidal. Isn’t that enough? I am not necessarily convinced by the businessman as minister argument. It would depend on who the person was, while the potential to be seen as “sectarian” would be high – sectarian, such as promoting the hotelier’s cause over that of others.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that campaign stories about tourism (or anything else for that matter) could do with less sectarianism than they tend to. Hopeless, of course, given the biases of individuals and publications. However, I cite as an example an article from a source that strongly defends the travel industry and states that “ hated tourism for the authorities such as those in the Balearic Islands and Barcelona is becoming a key factor in the elections’.

I have been critical of Negeruela in the past. But hated? A description which is completely inappropriate and inaccurate and which would also be for the PSOE government partners. No hate, this is funny. People like Belle Busquets have not played well with the tourism industry, but she could never be accused of hating tourism. And as for the current minister, there is Escarr from Melia who said that he felt good both with him and with President Armengol until – if we go back in time to what the man who did not is PP number two – we will find, and certainly in terms of the tourism law of excesses, that “Minister Negeruela has good intentions“.

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