Alicia Fuentes Vega, Bienvenido Mr. Turismo. Cultura visual del boom en España [Welcome Mr. Tourism. Visual culture of the boom in Spain], 2017, 288 p.
The Spanish tourism boom is a well known but hardly debated phenomenon. In the collective memory it has remained linked to a series of places —Benidorm, Torremolinos— and of symbolic icons —the bikini, “las suecas”[Swedish, read blonde, females]— that give form to a stereotyped narration. With the aim of nuancing and enriching that story, the present book proposes a revision of the boom‘s visual culture. The author analyzes a huge documentary corpus from national and foreign archives, using the analytical tools of visual studies and of the anthropology of tourism. The resulting iconographic repertoire reveals that the imaginary of the Spanish during the Franco dictatorship was a lot more complex than one could think a priori, with a constant negotiation between the images that responded to the tourists’ search for experiences and those with which a country in the process of modernization wanted to be recognized.
Blogger’s summary of the book review:
The author has studied the imagery with which Spain tried to sell itself as a tourist destination during the dictatorship of Franco until today; basically from slightly underdeveloped, rural scenes to beaches with spectacular women from Sweden and imported palm trees (from Egypt, to replace the indigenous Mediterranean pine). The book title is an allusion to a 1953 film comedy entitled “Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall”.
Alicia Fuentes Vega, in an interview that accompanies the book review, mentions other works that have studied the phenomenon:
Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (1976)
David Picard, several with Mike Robinson, cf. author’s page at UNIL (Lausanne, Switzerland)
Sasha D. Pack, Tourism and Dictatorship: Europe’s Peaceful Invasion of Franco’s Spain (2006)
Ana Moreno Garrido, Historia del turismo en España en el siglo XX [20th century history of tourism in Spain] (2007); there is also a Spanish blog of her research group on the history of tourism
The summer of 2017 saw a lot of articles discussing “turismophobia”, especially in Barcelona, but also in Palma de Mallorca and other places, where people protested -mostly peacefully and sometimes with great imagination- against the presence of tourists, as some of the local populations feel threatened by mass tourism that leads to price increases in housing rents and to a loss of quality of life, especially due to noise at night.
Reader’s foto taken in Malta as published in La Vanguardia, September 2017
The sociologist Manuel Castells (Wikipedia; UOC personal website) thinks that tourism as practised in Spain today and seen as a whole is bad economics, and he gives the following reasons [excerpts of an op-ed article]:
[In 2017] Spain will be visited by nearly 80M people. … In 2015, the tourism industry accounted for 11.1% of GDP and 12% of jobs. Today this means 2.8M workers. … Which means it is the motor industry of the Spanish economy… the tourism spending by the Europeans is on the rise. Except for Spain where 40% of the population have not been able to go on vacation this year.
For sure, it is cheap tourism… moving all the time away from the big operators and the hotel chains towards a tourism of semi-legal housing organized by internet intermediaris like AirBnB with the complicity of speculator owners or tenants, on break with their neighbors.
There is an evident saturation, example the Balearic Islands: 2.03M tourists vs. 1.1M residents. … The saturation of a sometimes low civic quality explains the reactions by the citizenry… mainly symbolic protest actions against predatory tourism…
… the economic benefits of this kind of tourism are more than questionable. It is simply an obsolete idea of the economy in which the only facts that count are benefits to the companies and job creation, whatever jobs these are. Forgetting the contribution to long-term development of the country’s wealth as well as the unaccounted costs, budgetary, social and environmental. … low labor productivity in Spain… directly related to predominance of sectors with low productivity such as tourism and construction. … result of workers’ low qualification… linked directly to the predominance of temp work in the sector… the work conditions frequently are inhumane… , and the salaries are the lowest of the whole labor market, on the average paying 1,000 EUR a month or less [working full time]. This has got important consequences for the deficit of the welfare state, as has been analyzed by Miquel Puig . For the simple reason that these very low wages hardly contribute to the financing of the Social Security system while the benefits of health and education services and pensions also have to be delivered to these workers and their families. Which means, the more occupation is created in tourism under the conditions of temporality and precarity, the worse for the crisis of the Welfare state and less is done for the improvement of the economy which depends on the population’s capacity of consumption…
A regulated and well-structured tourism as proposed by the Government of the Balearic Islands is a blessing by our climate and our history. But the tourism as practised today is unsustainable and destructive, not only socially but also economically.
 e.g. in his book Un bon país no és un país low-cost (A good country is not a low-cost country; Grup62); or in a recent interview with Vilaweb (Catalan only)
cover of La Vanguardia‘s “Cultura/s” on summer festivals, designed by Jordi Labanda, June 2017
Similar observations are regularly being made by Ramon Aymerich, another of La Vanguardia‘s editor-columnists:
… The jobs that are now being created in tourism, the motor of the current economic recovery, in the best of cases are in the 1,000 EUR bracket. In the traditional management manuals, a lot of these jobs were thought of as provisional in a person’s life. … Because they are extremely routine, because of their shifts, because of their salaries… The problem is that for a lot of people they have become definitive, because it is difficult for the economy to create better jobs. … (La Vanguardia, Aug. 26, 2017, p. 48, print edition)
Another piece of recent news:
Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística (National Statistics Office) published in the second week of September the current labor cost indices. These numbers showed that the labor and salary costs had declined again, 0.2% and 0.1% respectively, while Spain’s GDP is growing by around 3.1%. They also showed big differences in salaries depending on the sectors of activity. The lowest salaries are paid in hospitality… It happens to be that hospitality, the sector that pays the lowest salaries, is responsible for half of the new hirings… (La Vanguardia, Sept. 16, 2017, p. 57, print edition)
cover of La Vanguardia‘s “Cultura/s”, August 2017
The problem is to find an alternative occupation for the literally millions of Spaniards —quite a few with a university degree— who work in miserable tourism jobs.
(Amazon has put up a few distribution centers around the Barcelona area recently, but probably there are the same problems with routine, shifts, and salaries…)
[You can get economic and other data on Spain from the CIA World Factbook.]
SOURCE: Càtedra (publisher of Bienvenido, Mr. Turismo); Manuel Castells, La Vanguardia, Aug. 12, 2017; “Cultura/s,” La Vanguardia, Aug. 12, pp. 20-23 [printed edition]