Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Port Mayurqa: Another Failed Scheme?

The history of theme parks in Mallorca is a short and undistinguished one. This is mainly because ideas have come forward and been presented only for them to disappear. Much publicity has in the past been given to, for instance, the project of the Theme Park Group, which was supposedly going to have been sited somewhere between Llucmajor and Campos. Representatives were photographed with the then president, José Ramón Bauzá, much was said about how marvellous it would be for creating employment and tackling seasonality, and it was soon forgotten. Planning permission, investment, environmental issues and some mutterings behind the scenes regarding the credentials of one of the principals involved all saw to it that the project for the "Mallorca Experience" sank without trace.

There have also been the proposed dinosaur theme park in Sineu and the Christian theme park "Tierra Santa" that was touted around numerous town halls and failed to get anywhere. Theme parks such as there are, i.e. Katmandu Park in Magalluf, aren't really what one thinks of as constituting a theme park. It is nothing like on the scale of what's to be found on the mainland, e.g. Port Aventura. It never will be on the scale and, moreover, there never will be any theme park in Mallorca that gets anywhere close.

When the Bauzá government came into office, the tourism minister Carlos Delgado was an advocate of theme parks. By the time the Bauzá administration was drawing to a close, Delgado's successor, Jaime Martínez, was admitting that theme parks were pretty much dead ducks. Environmental considerations, foremost, would never permit them. It was an obvious conclusion, as these considerations had scuppered projects in the past.

The current vogue, such as it is, for theme parks in a Mallorca style is essentially that of the large retail complex with attractions grafted on. This is the case with a project still doing the rounds which, when it was first being given publicity in the summer of 2016, seemed as if it would go the same way as Jaime Martínez's other dead ducks.

Port Mayurqa, so we are told, would involve an investment of 500 million euros. It would provide 2,000 jobs for its construction and a further 3,000 once it is up and running. The chosen site would be Son Malferit in Palma right by Ikea and the Atlético Baleares football stadium. In addition to shops and restaurants, it would include a spa, a ski zone, a surf zone and some form of a lake for boats. There would also be cinemas, an amphitheatre for staging concerts, a botanical garden and an aquarium in which visitors would be able to swim with its different types of fish.

The project is the brainchild of Intu-Eurofond, essentially a British concern and one with very solid credentials. There are none of the business misgivings about Intu that there might have been about the Mallorca Experience scheme. Port Mayurqa is clearly a realistic venture which has attracted support from Mallorca businesses like Quely and World2Meet, which is part of the Iberostar group.

One says realistic, but the realities may well be different. When the project was spoken about in 2016, it was said by the developers that there had been positive meetings with the government (President Armengol and Biel Barceló) and with Palma town hall. The hoteliers federation was in favour, as were the leading unions. Almost as soon as these positive meetings were announced, the now mayor of Palma, Antoni Noguera, said that the project did not meet with the model of the city being envisaged under the revised general urban plan.

Noguera also referred to the moratorium on the development of large commercial centres and to the "saturation" of such centres in Palma. The moratorium had come from the Council of Mallorca. It was imposed while the Council considered the whole future of large centres. Its deliberations are all but over, while it is also in the process of revising its territorial plan for the whole of the island. This plan takes account of all development.

The fact is that Port Mayurqa is highly unlikely to be given the Council's blessing. Palma town hall, especially with Noguera in charge, will also probably veto it. The concept, notwithstanding the future employment and the potential to satisfy the government's wishes for tackling tourism seasonality, comes with rather too much political baggage in terms of it potentially further undermining local business and of it causing "saturation". The mere mention of it incurs the wrath of GOB, Terraferida and others.

It had seemed as if it wasn't going anywhere, but in fact the support from business and unions has strengthened, while market research surveys conducted by GfK point to a favouring of the project among the public. Will it come to light? Personally, I would very much doubt that it will.

* Image is of the scheme for Port Mayurqa.

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