Imagine, for a moment, that the Greens were a force in Spanish politics, were to have formed a coalition with, let’s say, Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE, and were - as part of the coalition deal - to have been awarded the ministry of tourism.
The imagination is being stretched, as there isn’t a dedicated ministry of tourism as such. But there is the tourism ministerial portfolio, and if this were to be Green, one could fully imagine leaders of the mighty tourism industry turning green - not through envy but with a sudden and unpleasant illness.
What, or who, could be worse than a Green with his or her hands on the national tourism portfolio, in political charge of what - in the best of non-Covid times - accounts for twelve per cent-plus of Spain’s GDP? Alberto Garzón perhaps?
The Unidas Podemos consumer affairs minister was consigned to the junior ministerial ranks partly, one suspects, because Sánchez felt that consumer affairs weren’t of huge importance and that Alberto couldn’t do too much damage there. Which was before, of course, he started offering his views about the nation’s meat industry and tourism.
Let me say that I don’t particularly disagree with much of what Garzón has had to say, but leading figures in the respective industries do, and they haven’t been slow in expressing their rejections of Garzón analyses which, more so with meat than tourism, are about as green as the Spanish government can get without an express description as green.
Sr. Garzón, in his musings about factory farming, has alluded to rural tourism. He is therefore in territory occupied by green parties, the UK’s for instance. One can probably appreciate what a Green Party tourism manifesto would contain without even reading it. But were it to be read, it might be surprising.
There is a great deal which tourism industries in different countries increasingly understand to be of importance and which is also being put into practice. It’s how, as a politician, you go about these things. How you say them. When you say them. And also about perception of you as a politician.
In the case of Alberto Garzón, as he is a communist, an alliance with green sentiment is far less likely to be met receptively by an industry than if he were simply a Green without the additional political baggage. On balance, therefore, Greens in coalition with Sánchez might actually have tourism industry leaders turning a lighter shade of green than were it Sr. Garzón.
In Mallorca, the Greens - Els Verds de Mallorca - merged with Iniciativa d’Esquerres in 2010 and formed IniciativaVerds. There was something of a communist element to this amalgamation, which became part of Més. David Abril was a leading light, and someone who would have given the Mallorcan tourism industry far more sleepless nights than ex-tourism minister Biel Barceló ever did. Abril, no longer in frontline politics, frequently offered his views on tourism.
Again, and like Garzón, he had valid points to make, but Barceló was a way more palatable character, even if this was at times through gritted teeth.
Més are an eco-party, so the Balearic government can be said to have a coalition including greens. But neither Més nor Unidas Podemos are specifically green. Which brings us to a government where there is a Green Party and one, moreover, which is in charge of tourism - the German government.
In Germany, there isn’t a tourism ministry. The post of commissioner of tourism, akin to a secretary of state in Spain and so not a minister, has disappeared now that there is a new government, and in its place is the coordinator for the maritime economy and tourism, Claudia Müller of the Greens. A party colleague of hers, Anna Christmann, is coordinator for aviation.
So, what would probably represent a nightmare scenario for the tourism industry in Spain, is a reality in Germany. Greens responsible for tourism and for air transport. What could possibly go wrong?
Prior to entering the government, the Greens in the Bundestag made much of tourism’s economic potential for rural regions. They were campaigning for nature-based tourism, and they are known to be, for instance, highly critical of low-cost flights to Mallorca.
I don’t know what colour Fritz Joussen of TUI has turned, but he will now be dealing with Frau Müller and Frau Christmann, whose main tasks - in exiting the Covid crisis - will be supporting the respective industries in moving towards climate neutrality and sustainability. And one way will be by pushing for a Europe-wide aviation tax.
As I say, there is much in green political agendas with which the tourism industry is in tune. Now, however, a major tourism power actually has Greens running the show.
For the Balearic government, commitment to sustainability and all that, this will doubtless be spun very positively. Even so, a close eye will be kept on what happens in Berlin.