Vacation, Not all the Environment Ever Wanted

Spain’s Balearic islands have been a popular vacation spot since the 1960s — maybe a little too popular. That’s why Spain is expected to announce tomorrow that all construction on the islands of Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca will be halted, the Guardian reported today. Done. No more.

Details haven’t been announced but the move is expected to save land in Palma, at one of Mallorca’s largest bays and in urban marshlands in Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca. Those areas will be made protected land, making them untouchable in the future.

Last week, the government began a plan to remove illegally built homes, chalets and hotels  — construction in Spain is banned within 100 meters of the coast, but some developers ignored that law — along 500 miles of Spanish coastline.

"We
cannot mistreat our natural resources, damage the coastline and allow
for a disproportionate growth in residential properties," the socialist president of the Balearic islands, Francesc Antich, said.

Tourism is a rich financial resource for Spain, and for many countries around this world. It’s also great for the residential market. Popular destinations require new hotels, rental homes, apartments.

But balancing economic advantages and ecological concerns is important. Consider:

  • A recent Travel Industry Association survey found 78 percent of travelers are environmentally conscious, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. More than 50 percent of those travelers said they would choose a travel supllier who ”demonstrated a true commitment
    to environmental responsibility" over one who didn’t, according to leisure trend analyst Peter Yesawich.
  • St. Thomas recently nabbed the title of worst island vacation destination in National Geographic Traveler’s fourth annual survey of islands around the world because of its habit of packing in tourists — but in 2004, St. Thomas also was given poor grades on the National Geographic report card system when launched in 2004 for refusing to encourage sustainable tourism, according to The Virgin Islands Daily News.
  • In that same survey, St. John was named best of the Caribbean islands — with panelists praising its committment to maintaining the "natural environment" and "ecologically minded business people," but lost out on getting into the highest-rated category because of excessive development
    in Cruz Bay, the Daily News reported. "[St. John’s] long term prospects, especially for the locals, will depend on good sustainable tourism management," according to the reviewers.

Even in low economic times, people vacation — and that makes vacation spot development a lucrative industry. But whose responsibility is it to balance progress with protection — the government’s? Developers’?

It’s great that Spain has stepped up to protect its natural resources, but one wonders how things progressed so far that demolition has to be involved. It seems it would be easier to determine what land needs to be hands-off before building begins — or are local governments the ones who are on vacation?