Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Man Who Invented Tourism

In Can Picafort is a road which, like others, goes in a straight line in linking the thoroughfare of the Carretera Artà and the Paseo Colon and which adds to the criss-cross grid layout of this part of the resort. Along this road are some pine trees which hang over the road itself and partially obscure a hotel. It is the Farrutx, named after the cape at the eastern end of the bay of Alcúdia, the tip of one of three giant claws - Pinar and Formentor being the others - between which are one enormous bite and one lesser bite of coastal crescents eaten by the voracious appetite of the sea. These bites are the bights (German, "Bucht") of Alcúdia and Pollensa, the bays of Alcúdia and Pollensa.

Can Picafort is a case example of two styles of resort urban planning in one. Though the whole of it is called Can Picafort, it is really two resorts in one. Can Picafort was created according to the grid system which stops abruptly around about where the marina is. The rest of the resort, Son Bauló, is the original resort, with origins dating from the 1930s. Its layout is totally different. Its circular style is evidence of a quasi-garden city design approach, the dominant planning philosophy of the 1920s and 1930s before 1960s' modernism brought with it the Milton Keynesian new town grid.

The name Can Picafort has existed since the end of the nineteenth century. It comes from what was little more than a shack that belonged to one Jeroni Fuster. It was called "Picafort", derived from words to refer to the strong itch from a mosquito bite. But there was little or nothing in Can Picafort until the 1960s. Photos show the early formation of the grid road system; sand tracks that led to the beach in the late 1950s. One of them, the main one, is now Via Suisa. At its beach end were once dunes. 

Son Bauló, as a tourist area, is thus much older. As Can Picafort as a whole developed in the 1960s, Son Bauló dominated, which was unsurprising as its basic infrastructure had been in place thirty years before, a product of the drive to create resorts between the world wars but one that had its roots some thirty or forty years further back in time.

Let's go back to that road with the pine trees and the Hotel Farrutx. Its name is Miquel dels Sants Oliver, a name that will mean little or nothing to guests at the hotel or to any tourist or indeed to many residents. In the small town of Campanet, they have started commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Oliver, who was born there in 1864. Later this year there will be further acts of celebration.

Oliver was a journalist. For a time he was also the editor of "La Almudaina", a newspaper that was founded in 1887 by his father. He was known for many things, but it was articles that he wrote in that newspaper in the early 1890s which made him a hugely important figure in the development of Mallorca's tourism. At the same time as Jeroni Fuster was lending the name of his shack to what was to become a major tourist resort, Oliver was setting out principles for a whole new industry - tourism.

It could be argued that Oliver invented Mallorca's tourism because what he, with remarkable vision foresaw in his articles, was tourism for the spring and summer seasons. It was to be some years before hot-weather tourism truly caught on, but Oliver's vision ran counter to the thinking of the time, that tourism was something for the mild winter. He wrote those articles against a background of economic crisis in the island's agricultural sector, the result in part of the phylloxera plague that struck grape vines. He saw the necessity for diversification, and tourism was that diversification. For it to be successful, though, there needed to be great improvements to infrastructure. His thinking directly led to the founding of the Majorca Tourist Board in 1905, though when we speak - in English - of a tourist board, we underestimate what this meant. Its Spanish name is more meaningful: Fomento del Turismo, the development of tourism, which was to be development in all facets, one of which, some years later, was the creation of resorts, such as Son Bauló.

Of course, what Oliver could not have foreseen was what came in the 1960s. He would probably have been horrified. Tourism visionary he was, but he was also sympathetic to rural traditions, such as those of his home town, and to the natural and unspoilt environment, like that of the bays in the north. Would he have liked his name to have been given to a road with a hotel called Farrutx in a resort built on dunes? Unlikely.

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