Monday, November 03, 2014

Re-imagining A Resort: Calvia Beach

The World Travel Market (WTM) at London's ExCeL starts today. It is an important fair, and for the Mallorcan tourism industry there has arguably never been a more important WTM than this year's. And the reason why is Magalluf.

The decisions of Kuoni Nordic and an Italian family-holidays tour operator to drop Magalluf next year and a noticeable fall in occupancy levels in September and October would appear to be evidence of the harmful impact of the negative publicity that has surrounded Magalluf. There is, therefore, a good deal of pressure on tourism industry representatives to get a positive message across at the WTM. Fortunately, they don't seem to wish to accentuate the negative, as would be the case were the ill-conceived campaign to attempt to get British youth to behave themselves to be pursued. Instead, there is the positive to be accentuated, and typical of this is the video "Calvia Beach V1", which is now up on YouTube.

It is easy to be critical of this video. The imagery, primarily promotion for Meliá's new hotels, comes across as too divorced from other realities in Magalluf. These realities are not ignored but at the same time they are not given any prominence. But then, why would they be? Any great focus on the seamy side of Magalluf would diminish and undermine the message that the video wants to get across.

Of the Meliá people who feature in the video, the one with perhaps the greatest responsibility is the hotel group's vice-president for global brand marketing, Tony Cortizas. He talks about the re-imagination of a destination, i.e. Magalluf as Calvia Beach, and he it is who has to deliver and to turn the imagination into tangibility. The physical evidence of this re-imagination is already there, but embedding the name Calvia Beach into the minds of tourists from whichever country they might come from isn't as yet.

By 2016, according to executive vice-president for real estate, Mark Hoddinott, the transformation of the resort will be complete, but which resort is he referring to? And when Tony Cortizas considers the branding, which resort is he branding? He says that Calvia Beach is not about re-naming Magalluf - and nor is that likely to occur, despite the possibility having been aired - so what happens to Magalluf, to the Punta Ballena, to the parts which haven't been given the Meliá treatment? The transformation will not be complete in 2016, not in the sense of the whole of Magalluf having been transformed.

The Calvia Beach development is creating an uneasy resort apartheid at present, and it is one founded not just on the juxtaposition of luxury with the distinctly non-luxury but also on a battle between tourist market profiles. Cursach with its BH hotel complex would seem to be siding with the Meliá vision of the future and with a Meliá focus - in part - on the so-called Millennial Generation, a somewhat nebulous marketing concept which is supposedly characterised by twenty-somethings (and sometimes also thirty-somethings) who have very high expectations of hotels and who are the new generation of luxury travellers. But there are also many in this vast peer group who, because of their age, match this profile but are lying unconscious through drink on Punta Ballena rather than being millennial in a Wave House style.

The Balearics tourism minister, Jaime Martínez, has spoken of his desire to end bar crawls in Magalluf. In the video he reiterates the view that too many businesses have sought short-term profit with no thought given to the reputation of Magalluf. He would happily see an end to the apartheid, with the bar crawls ceasing and many a bar having to undergo its own process of re-imagination. But until such a time as a bar capable of permitting sex videos is re-conceived as some post-modernist art bistro, or whatever it might be, the transformation will remain partial. The branding, the re-imagination of Calvia Beach would stay a Meliá marketing exercise in unholy co-existence side-by-side with the old brand of Magalluf and all the negative but nonetheless powerful attributes it has.

Yet, it is not impossible to believe that through some process of conceptual osmosis, Calvia Beach and its re-imagination for the new age might penetrate the thick skin of Punta Ballena and implant notions of re-conception and thus new types of business. Transformation has to start from somewhere, and Calvia Beach may come to be all-embracing. There is, and it is alluded to in the video, the example of Miami Beach, especially its South Beach. Whether comparisons with Magalluf are wholly appropriate is questionable, but South Beach, at one time seedy, decayed, rife with crime, is now a place for the hip and ultra-cool. Impossible in Magalluf? Re-imagine.

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