Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hey! Remember Us?: Other resorts

Manacor town hall was proud to have announced that it had presented "relevant information" to the World Travel Market last week. Prior to the fair, it was able to say that the "capital of the Llevant" had "very important" projects in hand, such as for cycling and sports tourism, one of the big Balearic themes at the fair. No one from Manacor actually attended, partly one suspects because the town hall was in the process of change: the vote of no confidence had ushered in a totally different ruling administration. But the town hall had probably, in any event, not planned on sending anyone. Unless I'm mistaken, there were only four town halls with official representation at the fair, two of which needed no introduction: Calvia and Palma. The other two were Alcudia and Pollensa.

In Manacor there is a resort that has been badly neglected for years. Calas de Mallorca has, however, been attempting to up its image, and an innovative website has been part of the process. It isn't the only resort to have been active web-wise, so have Cala Millor and Pollensa, for example.

Pollensa is very British, but it's not as though Cala Millor and Calas de Mallorca don't get British tourists. So should these resorts, and others, have been in attendance? Ultimately, it's a financial consideration. If the regional government is tight when it comes to spending money on tourism promotion, then the town halls are decidedly Scrooge-like. It's hoped that others assist them with promotion at events like London's travel fair - the Balearic Tourism Agency and the hoteliers - but what hope did most of Mallorca's resorts have last week? Alcudia and Pollensa were doing their best, but the only games in old London town were Calvia's and Palma's.

In Palma's case, this was principally to promote the city as a weekend-break destination. Where Calvia was concerned, it was clear why the town hall was keen to be in London. This was a fair which, from a Mallorcan perspective, had one message and one message alone: Magalluf.

This was clearly a message that needed getting across, but one does have to wonder what the rest of Mallorca makes of the apparent monopoly (or duopoly, if Palma is included) of the island's marketing. Fair play to Calvia (and Meliá) for the public relations exercise, but where do other resorts fit in? And among them are others only a short distance from Magalluf. Like Santa Ponsa. It's not just resorts to the north, west or east which are overlooked, it's others in Calvia as well.

The hoo-ha over the missing 63 million euros investment for Playa de Palma was a useful ploy by the regional government. They did, after all, know about this the week before the fair but only revealed the news once they were there. Diversionary tactic for dealing with the tourist tax? Possibly it was, but the argument over this investment merely went to reinforce what has been recognised for too long: the obsession of governmental bodies and of the media with two resorts and only two resorts. Everywhere else appears inconsequential.

And a consequence of this is that you never hear about investments in other resorts, if indeed there are any. Nigh on 200 million of Meliá investors' cash in Magalluf, plus that of others. 63 million that the government is desperate to retrieve from Madrid for Playa de Palma. Vast sums of money that are constantly mentioned, held up as achievements or as examples of central government "aggression" towards Mallorca and the Balearics. Yes, there is investment elsewhere, but it is not of a fundamental character as it is in Magalluf and Playa de Palma: a re-invention of old and tired resorts.

Perhaps the government hopes that it can convince tourists and tour operators that the tourist tax is the means for making Mallorca less of a two-resort island, that the revenue will go to other parts destined to also become like Miami Beach. It's unlikely to convince anyone, and the case for the tax was arguably made less convincing by all the Calvia-Palma puffery in London. If there is investment of the levels spoken about for Magalluf and Playa de Palma - investment without the aid of a tourist tax - why should a tax be necessary?

The point is though that very little of the Magalluf investment has thus far been public money. Meliá, because of its strong interests in the resort and its access to investment, was able to circumvent the type of delays that have dogged the more publicly funded Playa de Palma. Other resorts don't have a sugar daddy hotel chain. They thus rely far more on public funds to bring about change. In a couple of years time, will the World Travel Market be learning about the changing faces of Cala Millor, Alcudia and Calas de Mallorca?

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