Monday, November 21, 2016

The Mysterious Non-Growth Of Puerto Pollensa

In days of yore, Mallorca didn't see the necessity to divide its year into two seasons: ones commencing on 1 May and 1 November. Back in the day, and we're talking very much back in the day - as in the early decades of the last century - the seasons were as they normally are. There were four. Not dictated to by tourism, the island accommodated what tourists there were and existed in low-key, all-year touristic bliss.

Accommodation was key to all this. There wasn't a great deal of it, which was hardly surprising as there weren't great hordes of tourists demanding it. But of what there was, as in hotels, there was a distinct lack of even distribution. The typical tourist, northern European for example, vacationed in what would now be dubbed the low season (in broad terms from November to April). As a consequence, places which had hotels enjoyed what, in very relative terms, was a thriving all-year tourist business.

Immediately prior to the Civil War, Mallorca could count on having a mere 2,000 places in 32 hotels plus some pensions, hostels and inns. And of the 32 hotels, eleven of them were in Pollensa. After Palma, Pollensa was the principal centre of tourism on the island, and specifically it was Puerto Pollensa. While the Niu family in Cala San Vicente set about developing its old pension, and the ancestors of ex-Pollensa mayor Tomeu Cifre had a hotel in Pollensa town from 1907 (the Cosmopolita, now the Juma), most of this hotel activity was to be found in the port, plus the Hotel Formentor.

In Puerto Pollensa's case, there was all-year activity, and it wasn't solely reliant on the hotels. From the start of the twentieth century, it started to attract islanders who vacationed there in summer. They would use fishermen's cottages before beginning to build their own summer homes. But the islanders were far from being the only ones. The naming of a hotel in Pollensa - Cosmopolita - was highly prescient, although even by 1907 there were the first signs of cosmopolitanism. This was provided by the first wave of foreign painters, who were to be so crucial in promoting the area (the Tramuntana especially), and also the Royal Navy: British naval squadrons were to appear regularly in Pollensa bay.

The real "boom" in Puerto Pollensa occurred in the ten years before the war. During this time the Illa d'Or and the Formentor hotels opened, and celebrated names appeared, such as Agatha Christie. She arrived in Mallorca in March 1932. Not with any particular forethought of staying in Puerto Pollensa, she observed that "everyone, English, Americans were going to Mallorca in winter". There was nowhere to stay in Palma, so she took a taxi north and was fascinated by what she saw - the bay of Pollensa.

Move forward to the years of the 1950s and 1960s, and Puerto Pollensa - it might be thought - was in a strong position to build on the reputation and infrastructure it had acquired before the war. But this wasn't to happen. To the relief of so many who now live there and take holidays there, Puerto Pollensa avoided the excesses of so-called Balearisation. Why though?

It has been suggested that this was due to farsightedness on behalf of the town hall. Later on perhaps, but not necessarily in the early boom years. There were, after all, to be hotels of several storeys height - the Pollensa Park and Molins in Cala San Vicente. A key reason was that pre-war development. Puerto Pollensa had become a tourist resort before anywhere else away from Palma. When the demand came for the tourism boom, the focus was on what had been the incipient garden city resorts of the 1930s, such as Palmanova, Santa Ponsa and Son Baulo (Can Picafort). Plus, there was Puerto Alcudia, not conceived as a garden city but already with the outline of what was to become the City of Lakes. These offered tremendous scope for development; it was to be done from an almost blank sheet. Puerto Pollensa, on the other hand, had a comparatively full sheet.

The development had to be rapid. The Franco regime, with its desperate need for foreign exchange, earmarked Mallorca for expansion and then pretty much let the island get on with things. It was far easier to develop from the pre-war plans that resided in town halls like Calvia and Santa Margalida, and ones that were unencumbered by existing infrastructure and interests.

But there was at least one other very important reason why Puerto Pollensa avoided the massive boom, and it was something it shared with Puerto Soller. That resort had also become popular before the war, especially with French tourists. It also escaped the worst excesses of development, and for that, thanks have to be given to the military. The regime, requiring tourism development, was also highly militaristic and paranoid. Where there were bases of strategic importance, tourism could develop only so much.

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