Joe Holles

“We need to connect agriculture and tourism in order to strengthen both sectors”

The president of the Tramuntana XXI association, a board member of the Mallorca Preservation Foundation and the Cercle d’Economia, manager of the Son Moragues estate and the producer, in 2019, of the famous documentary Overbooking. Joe Holles (Hemel Hempstead, England, 1984) is one of the most authorised voices on Mallorca to speak of tourism and nature, above all with regard to the Serra de Tramuntana. And he does not mince his words. Out of the love he professes for this land, which he came to at the age of five, and which he knows far better than most Mallorcans.

You studied philosophy. What makes a philosopher develop such a close bond with a place like the Serra de Tramuntana?

Studying philosophy served me as a base for everything that came afterwards. When I finished my degree, projects related to Tramuntana, the environment and sustainability began to take shape. The bond is easy, both for what the mountains inspire and what they represent.

You work and live where you grew up as a child...

Yes. Much has changed since I came to Valldemossa at the age of five, but I feel fortunate to have experienced it. And to continue living connected to nature.

What is the Serra de Tramuntana?

It is an example of how over centuries, people can turn hostile surroundings into a habitable space, and one that is sustainable to boot. Centuries ago it was practically impossible to farm this land, until wild olive trees were grafted and terraces were built.

And how did the Serra become a way of life for so many people, for so long?

Out of the pure necessity and determination of women and men who, generation after generation, carved out a place for themselves. In exchange for food, shelter and wood for heating and cooking, they sculpted a landscape... And it is thanks to those olive groves that fires are prevented, and thanks to those terraces that the rainwater that fills up our aquifers is filtered.

A virtuous circle.

Exactly. Sustainible and profitable at the same time, where every element has a role to play. Now, that bidirectional relationship between people and nature has been broken, we don’t replace what we extract, the countryside is enjoyed superficially but then abandoned. Which is why the Serra de Tramuntana we know today is in danger of disappearing.

And what can be done to save it?

The only way of preserving an agricultural environment, a cultural landscape recognised by UNESCO, is by reactivating the productive fabric. The Serra de Tramuntana needs to find a viable economic model to preserve its environment. Producing one litre of wine or oil costs up to ten times more in the mountains than on the plain, and very few people are willing to pay that price.

And how can a sustainable economic model, one that lasts over time, be achieved?

I believe in innovation based on respect for tradition. Innovation both in products and in ways of producing, or synergies with other industries, like tourism. Precisely a great deal of our work at Tramuntana XXI is related to that: looking for synergies and aligning interests between public use and private property, agriculture and tourism, sustainability and profitability…

Does the future of farming in the Serra de Tramuntana depend on tourists?

Not exclusively, but it is true that it is often tourists who have the economic capacity and the interest to pay the extra cost of a product from the Serra. Especially if there is good communication informing them that by paying that price, they are contributing to maintaining the surroundings they visit.

As the executive producer of the documentary Overbooking, isn’t it contradictory to denounce tourism and then defend it?

Overbooking is not a denunciation of tourism per se, rather it showcases the dysfunctions of a model of tourism that does not care enough about adapting to the values of the places visited, and which does not connect to farming, for example. One of the clear conclusions of the documentary is that we need to work, as we are doing at Tramuntana XXI, on connecting tourism and agriculture more in order to strengthen both sectors.

And how does the Mallorca Preservation Foundation help?

We channel resources from donors, most of them foreigners, towards local initiatives capable of having a direct influence on improving Mallorca’s sustainability. We help [...]


Read this article in full in IN PALMA 67. And if you like, subscribe to IN PALMA for 1 year and get the next 4 issues of the magazine delivered to your home.

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