Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lake Esperanza To The Inland Station

The "estaciones náuticas", of which there are now 23 throughout Spain, have increased their turnover from 980 million euros in 2005 to 2,300 million euros in 2012. This growth sounds impressive and would be even more so if we knew what the hell it represented.

The network of water-sports centres (and estaciones náuticas are water-sports centres, or resorts if you prefer) commercialises some 4,500 products in promoting nautical tourism in destinations with a long tradition of offering such tourism. The association for these water-sports centres has informed us that the turnover has more than doubled in seven years, but it is unclear how this turnover is accounted for. This is why I ask what it represents. The estación náutica concept, brand, call it what you will, is at best nebulous. It becomes even more so when it isn't obvious what the association is referring to. As the number of centres has increased along with the number of products over the past seven years, then a rise in turnover would be expected, but whether this rise owes anything to centres being part of the network must be open to some question.

Alcúdia is one resort that has joined the network during these seven years (it is the only one in Mallorca). It will have added some products to the overall number that are commercialised, but try telling anyone that Alcúdia is an estación náutica and they will look at you with bafflement. Ever since Alcúdia acquired the status of an estación náutica, it has been a concept that has been a mystery to virtually everyone.

Falling under the Turespaña tourism promotion agency, the association for the estaciones náuticas periodically gives out growth figures which suggest that the concept is a wonderful one. And though the estación náutica may indeed be wonderful, its marketing is anything but. This is why it is so unknown in Alcúdia. It will be why it will also be unknown by tourists.

The main means of promoting the estaciones náuticas is via the internet. So I put it to the test. I assumed that I was a British tourist who was interested in water sports in Alcúdia. I entered this into Google and, impressively enough, the estaciones náuticas website came up at number one in the ranking. I clicked on it and was taken to the entry for Water Sports Mallorca in Playa de Muro. Not quite Alcúdia, but near enough, albeit that Playa de Muro is a separate resort and is not, therefore, an estación náutica. Moreover, what I had been taken to was a company called Water Sports Mallorca.

I thought I would look around the website, so clicked "Destinations". It didn't work. I clicked "Accommodations" (sic) and then "Hotels". Marina Suites Hotel was the first one that came up. It is in Gran Canaria. I tried a couple of other hotel pages. Not one hotel for Alcúdia. I clicked "Nautical Activities" and then "Kitesurfing". All entries appeared to be for Delta de l'Ebre, wherever that is and it certainly isn't Alcúdia. At this point I gave up, and I would imagine any other surfer (so to speak) would as well.

To put it bluntly, the website, where Alcúdia is concerned at any rate, is all but useless. One could, sadly, say the same about the estación náutica concept as a whole. Little of it makes sense, including its name and its obvious translation into English. Googling water sports in Alcúdia might mean good news for Marc and his buddies in Playa de Muro, but it isn't much good for anyone else.

Nevertheless, Alcúdia has embraced the concept. "We love sport 365 days" is now an Alcúdia slogan, and the estación náutica has helped to make the town edge towards all-year sport-loving. Or has it? That there may be more sport, more days of the year and more tourists availing themselves of it could be due to factors other than the estación náutica concept; factors such as the marketing by others which is far more effective. For the association to imply that it has been behind the growth in turnover is hugely debatable.

One of the more obvious problems with the concept is that it suggests some sort of physical presence. I stress that it is only a concept but there is now some physical manifestation - at Alcúdia old town's Can Ramis municipal building where there are also references to sports for 365 days, such as canoeing on the great lake. A case of from Lake Esperanza to the inland station. But wouldn't it better if there were an estación where you would expect to find náutica? Like by the sea? Only a thought.

QUIZ: Making a brief return. From which line from which famous song is today's title adapted?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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