Friday, June 17, 2016

Followers Of Resort Fashion

Meliá Hotels International has seven hotels in Torremolinos. They are all more or less dotted along the resort's fairly lengthy front line. The number isn't, therefore, so different to those in Magalluf. The mayor of the Costa del Sol resort has been in Magalluf. He has met with Calvia's mayor, Alfonso Rodríguez, and with the CEO of Meliá, Gabriel Escarrer.

Torremolinos is undergoing a process of renovation and repositioning. Sounds familiar, doesn't it. A closing-off of traffic, pedestrianisation of its old part are designed to make it a space for the citizens. Goodness, how familiar it does all sound.

One hesitates to call it a transformation (a word seemingly reserved for Magalluf, aka Calvia Beach, aka Meliá New Town), but the resort's improvement, says the mayor, has brought about a 30% increase in the number of licences for new business openings this year: even McDonald's has returned to a resort that had fallen into decline.

Torremolinos and Magalluf are like resort blood brothers. Go back in time and they were icons of touristic naffness: Torremolinos more so than Magalluf. It was Torremolinos that Monty Python chose when sending up the package holiday of the early 1970s rather than Magalluf. It seems wholly appropriate that its mayor should now have come and seen for himself what transformation entails.

It is not, one imagines, that Melía is about to embark upon something as grand as Calvia Beach. It is, however, upgrading its hotels. There is a Sol House (the Aloha, Costa del Sol) just as there is in Magalluf, though it appears not, as yet, to be "mixed" by Ibiza Rocks. Oh well.

Calvia Beach has been and is something of an experiment. It is not experimental, as that would imply that the results had not been carefully thought out: they obviously have been. No, it is an experiment in the creation of a different type of resort. It is a model that Meliá has itself suggested others may wish to follow. But that begs a question. Who are these others?

Even were Meliá of a mind to get heavily involved in a Torremolinos makeover, there wouldn't be the same inherent advantages as existed in Magalluf. The number of hotels was one of these. Their comparative proximity was another. An integrated transformation, one involving the town hall-owned immediate environment was facilitated as much as anything by this proximity. Torremolinos is different in this regard.

It has been an experiment in another way: to determine the degree to which one hotel chain can effect change and fairly fundamental change at that. Sure, there have been others - BH, Fergus - but they are followers, catching the wave (or is it Wave House) and in the slipstream of a hotel chain that has engineered the remodelling of a resort.

For Torremolinos, Calvia Beach will certainly offer an intriguing example to try and imitate, though how all-embracing this might be would be debatable. The Magalluf experiment, if nothing else, suggests that resort transformations require a sugar daddy hotel chain, one certainly with vision but one also with strong investment backing and that inherent real-estate advantage of hotel locations.

And for Torremolinos, read also other Mallorcan resorts. The point has been made previously. If Calvia Beach is a model to be taken up by others, then who is it that would drive this? Meliás don't grow on resort trees. The model would need its own remodelling. It would demand a consortium approach and shedloads of investment.

But would everywhere want to be like Calvia Beach? Meliá has spoken of how the traditional resort bar is being supplanted by the beach club (clearly not completely, it has to be said). This is all part of the complementary offer upgrading itself in line with a resort branding determined by the sophistication and aspirations inherent to the Millennial Generation (the young market which doesn't get totally blotto or down its pants on Punta Ballena). It's all in the marketing, of course it is.

Magalluf's family tourism market would seem to also demand beach clubs. Or is it that they are to be weaned off alternatives and made to want them? This is nothing against beach clubs, rather a fear that resorts, looking at the Calvia Beach experiment, will somehow contrive to lay their hands on investment and copy it. One would end up, therefore, with a sort of standardised resort model.

And in marketing terms, that would make little sense. Rather than standardisation, the marketing mantra has to be differentiation. But in order for that to apply, someone has to have the vision as to what a resort should be. Meliá has done this. It has re-thought the vision. But for Magalluf and only Magalluf. It doesn't mean, it shouldn't mean that others slavishly follow. Torremolinos should look, see what might make sense for it, and go its own way.

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