Friday, April 04, 2014

De-Greasing The Greasy Mile

I was recently earholed by a certain lady bar owner from Puerto Pollensa who had been enjoying the hospitality at an inauguration and who demanded to know of me why - in essence - Pollensa town hall was rubbish and Alcúdia town hall wasn't. Far be it for me to rush to the defence of Pollensa's mayor, Tomeu Cifre, but I felt the necessity to defend him. The dysfunctionality of the town hall isn't really his fault. It is in part the consequence of the fragmented nature of the political organisation on the council. This said, though, I also felt it necessary to point out that Alcúdia (which has a generally harmonious political organisation) is typically proactive and progressive in ways that Pollensa tends not to be.

No one is suggesting, least of all me, that everything is perfect in Alcúdia, because it isn't, but the town hall, under Coloma Terrasa and also (because one fancies he has been highly influential) the deputy mayor Juan González, has been impressive in certain ways, and one of these is the way that the town hall communicates. Its information is really quite good, and an example of this is the posting of the town's tourism development plan on the municipal website. Stretching to fifty pages, this is a mightily detailed document.

A chief concern for those who have businesses in or who work in the complementary sector of the town's tourism industry is, of course, the proliferation of the all-inclusive offer. The plan will disappoint anyone looking for proposals to tackle AI. There aren't any, but why would there be? The town hall has no control over the type of board which hotels provide. But among the various projects that the town hall wishes to effect as part of its plan is one for Alcúdia's main tourism centre and specifically a "revitalisation" of the area around the Avenida Pedro Mas y Reus, otherwise and variously known as Dollar Street, the Greasy Mile or simply The Mile.

Though any plan for The Mile would not necessarily take account of what hotels do, it would be difficult to divorce hotel operations from general improvements (whatever these might be and which might be more than the underwhelming improvements that were undertaken last year). And these hotel operations mean overwhelmingly all-inclusive and all-inclusive at one specific hotel complex - Bellevue.

The fortunes of bar, restaurant and shop owners along The Mile have always been inextricably linked to Bellevue. At peak capacity the complex can accommodate at least 5,000 people. It has always catered for an essentially economy-class tourist, but now this is an economy-class tourist who - in 80% or more of cases - is staying all-inclusive.

There are plenty of other hotels around The Mile, but Bellevue - physically, visually and economically - dominates. A revitalisation of The Mile, I would suggest, cannot hope to be effective unless something were to happen to Bellevue, the question being - what?

The construction of Bellevue started in the early years of the '70s. It took several years for it to become a hotel complex, as the original plan (sale of time share apartments) was a flop, one not helped by legal and financial wrangles. And such wrangles have dogged the complex for much of its existence. They still do. At present, the former boss of the bankrupted Grupo Marsans and the head of Possibilitum, both companies linked to the ownership of Bellevue, are facing hefty prison sentences. Both have been detained, unable to pay bail amounts in the region of 50 million euros.

The management company does its best, but a prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty offers little hope that a genuine plan might be put in place to revamp a complex that is in bad need of a total overhaul. Until such a time as the private sector can work its way through the complexities that surround Bellevue (even if it was inclined to do so), little, one imagines, will happen. Meantime, the town hall wants to revitalise the area which Bellevue dominates. I wish them luck.

Anyway, if you are interested in finding out more about the tourism development plan, it can be downloaded from the town hall website. It is in Castellano, which might be considered another plus mark for the town hall.

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