The end of sustainability? A note on the changing politics of mass tourism in the Balearic Islands

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    Sustainability is often presented as the Holy Grail for mass tourism. There is a wide consensus linking the environmental upgrade of tired resorts with the competitiveness of mass tourism (Bramwell, 2003). The mantra of sustainability is particularly strong in the Balearic Islands, which is often presented as an example of sustainable mass tourism (Bardolet, 2001; Batle, 2000; Buswell, 2011). However, there are many doubts about how serious mass tourism is about sustainability (Buckley, 2007) and the lack of theoretically informed critical assessment (Bramwell & Lane, 2014). The academic consensus on sustainability is not always reflected on the ground, where contradictory logics coexist. The objective of ‘sustainability’ is particularly fragile at times of economic recession. This paper looks at the changing politics of mass tourism in the Balearic Islands. Specifically, it questions whether during the last period of recession there has been a shift away from a sustainable vision of mass tourism in favour of a more aggressive growth-orientated model. The paper addresses this question by examining a new tourism act adopted by the regional parliament in 2012 and subsequently modified in 2013 and 2014. The act was promoted by a conservative government to promote tourism growth in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The paper follows a discursive approach to policy analysis as articulated by Hajer (1995), which emphasises the constitutive role of discourse in political practice. Central to this approach is the notion of story line, the narrative on social reality that provides the basis for a common understanding of the problem, which then underpins policy interventions. By looking at the 2012 Tourism Act as a discursive intervention, the paper shows the extent to which ideas of tourism, its challenges and opportunities are at stake in mature destinations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)205-208
    JournalJournal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events
    Issue number2
    Early online date27 Oct 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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