Travel: In and out they go, those thousands of tourists enjoying their annual invasion of Majorca. There must be a conspiracy theory behind all this
Sunday 16 May 1999
It is also the place, I am now convinced, which is bound to provoke learned anthropologists of the remote future to ask themselves the following questions: what on earth was package tourism all about? And how on earth did it seduce so many people to uproot themselves and abandon their homes with such depressing regularity and zeal? Well, I have a few insights to offer them.
The first of these is that from the moment of landing, all arrivals suddenly find themselves sucked into a giant and merciless tourist-processing machine. Thousands of people, weighed down with far too much stress in their bodies to resist, file down the endless passageways of Majorca's sprawling airport each day, having arrived in planeload after planeload from all the great, grim places of Europe (Teesside, Manchester, London, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf to name but a few). The wheels of the baggage carousels groan ceaselessly day and night, and passengers tiredly queue in droves with their suitcases in order to be bussed away in shuttles under arc lights.
The second insight is that, for all we know, the promised hotels, beaches, sun decks, swimming pools, cold drinks, ice-creams, souvenir shops, snack bars and the like might not actually exist. Perhaps, in fact, the millions of brochures published each year are merely part of a wider conspiracy to lure a certain kind of person away from their cosy homes and to send them on one-way journeys to nowhere.
Perhaps Majorca itself is a mythology. I thought I was coming to a Mediterranean island. An alternative theory could be that this is a purpose-built concentration camp off the coast of Colombia. Perhaps the real Majorca has been left to the descendants of Robert Graves and members of the Bloomsbury group to continue to enjoy their mountain pines and olive groves in idyllic seclusion.
The Germans, it is said, have bought up 20 per cent of the island, and are pricing locals out of their homes. People like Claudia Schiffer are alleged to have built their multi-million-dollar homes here.
Of course, these allegations could also be deliberately fake rumours, put in place merely to persuade people to spend more and more money on their package holidays, not realising that their hard-earned Deutschmarks are in fact being channelled into nuclear power stations and arms factories, operated by slave labour in the interior.
The authorities are supposedly trying to move Majorca upmarket, using publicity stunts such as the ceremonial blowing up of vile and nasty 1960s hotels and their replacement by luxurious five-star 1990s models. Again, this might mean only that the kind of people being targeted for seduction away from their homes have changed from the European masses to the European middle classes.
On the other hand, it might not mean anything of the sort. It might simply mean that Majorca is a bloody nice place for a holiday and you would have to be a paranoid lunatic not to admit it.
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