Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Mystery Of Club Med In Alcúdia

The resorts of Mallorca tend to be associated with one particular tourism market. For example, Puerto Pollensa has traditionally been thought of as a British resort. Puerto Alcúdia isn't traditionally British, and originally, as I recall having been told many years ago, it was primarily a Swedish and Belgian resort.

The Swedish part of this equation I can understand, but the Belgian part has always been less understandable. Belgium, unlike Sweden, is not considered to be an especially important market for Mallorca. Nevertheless, Belgians obviously do come to Mallorca and have done for years, but why Alcúdia?

I am only guessing that the Belgian association has something to do with the origins of the devil's work of the contemporary holiday, the all-inclusive. And for these origins, one has to go back to 1950. It was then that the Belgian Gérard Blitz invited the first holidaymakers to a tented camp on a part of the beach in Alcúdia - the Playa de los Francesos, as it became known. It was an all-inclusive experience only in the loosest sense of the term. The holidaymakers all mucked in, there were communal facilities, including sporting ones, food was included in the price of the holiday, and they were the pioneers in having a holiday under the banner of what was to give the world the all-inclusive - Club Méditerranée - at the earliest "holiday village". 

The story of Club Med first pitching up and pitching on a beach in Alcúdia is well enough known. What is also well enough known is that Blitz got hold of tents supplied by Gilbert Trigano, who became Blitz's partner and boss of Club Med. It is also known that Blitz came up with the idea for holiday villages having experienced the Olympic Club tent village in Corsica where, apparently, he registered the Club Méditerranée name. But apart from these familiar parts of the story, very little else is known, and so a number of questions arise.

The first one is - where was the holiday village? Playa de los Francesos is a name that one can find references to today but it is not a commonly used name. Going on nothing more than an old photo, I would place the Playa de los Francesos of the holiday village as having been roughly where the Sunwing Resort now is.

Secondly, how long was it there and did it come to consist of straw huts, as became a Club Med trademark? It existed for around ten years before it was relocated to Porto Petro at the start of the 1960s. The site there is no longer a Club Med, Blau Porto Petro Beach Resort having replaced it some years ago. As for any straw huts ... .

The final question is a more difficult one - why was the original Club Med created in Alcúdia? Indeed, why was it in Mallorca or Spain at all? Gérard Blitz was a socialist and had been a Jewish resistance fighter during the Second World War, as had been Gilbert Trigano who, for a time, had also been a communist. Yet, here they were with a holiday village in Francoist Mallorca where, as with the rest of Spain, the regime at that time was not well-disposed to foreigners, of whatever political persuasion or from wherever they might have originated, having a business presence. (It took the Americans to batter down the doors of the regime's reluctance to allow foreign investment in tourism.)

The Club Med philosophy of egalitarianism was a reflection of the founders' values. Though Club Med was to later acquire a reputation for a certain lack of, how can one put it, inhibition, it was doubtless there from the very beginning. It owed at least something to the French naturist movement, albeit without the nudity (or maybe there was). Such egalitarianism and libertarianism would have been totally out of keeping with the regime's attitudes and Mallorcan societal attitudes of the time. 

Notwithstanding these apparently conflicting perspectives, Alcúdia as the location for the village may have been the consequence of pre-Civil War ties with Air France. Its seaplanes used to drop passengers off in the bay of Alcúdia en route from Marseille to Algeria. In the early 1950s, Air France was active in developing tourism through its routes from both Paris and Brussels to Palma, though this doesn't answer the question as to why Alcúdia.

Club Med in Alcúdia is all a bit of a mystery. I can find no references to it from 1950 until it was relocated; nothing as to what it may have become during those ten years or as to the reason why it came to be in Alcúdia. There must have been more to it than Blitz just simply having turned up one day. But what that more might be, I honestly couldn't say. 

* The photo comes from an entry by Ignacio Gil at:

Any comments to please.

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