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The charm of Mallorca

November 2018 | Места | Mallorca

The vision of different professionals is turned towards Mallorca as a tourist destination, to find out what it offers travellers, discover why it captivates both locals and visitors, and imagine its future.
  • From left to right: Jaime Oliver, Paloma Hernaiz, Joan Puigserver, Santi Taura, Carmen Cordón & Pere Joan Riera | © Ricard Peitx
  • The charm of Mallorca | © Ricard Peitx
  • Carmen Cordón | © Ricard Peitx
  • Jaime Oliver | © Ricard Peitx
  • Paloma Hernaiz | © Ricard Peitx
  • Santi Taura | © Ricard Peitx
  • Pere Joan Riera | © Ricard Peitx
  • Joan Puigserver | © Ricard Peitx
  • From left to right: Pere Joan Riera, Joan Puigserver & Carmen Cordón | © Ricard Peitx
  • From left to right: Santi Taura, Paloma Hernaiz & Pere Joan Riera | © Ricard Peitx

Interview | Marga Font
Photos | Ricard Peitx

 

Paula Serra, the editor of Book Style and moderator of the debate, throws out the questions that will reap thought-provoking reflections and proposals. Thus, Pere Joan suggests visitors who wish to discover the real Mallorca “become geographically deseasonalised”, walk the streets, lose themselves along B roads, “and if they want something authentic, they should go to a pig slaughter, a concentrated anthropological event surrounding what we are”. Being the good solleric (native of Sóller) that he is, Joan Puigserver proposes “taking the train to Sóller, visiting the town, going to Port de Sóller by tram and then taking the boat to Sa Calobra”. In summer, Carmen Cordón plumps for hiring “a rubber dinghy in the Bonaire Marina in Alcúdia, passing the Formentor headland and seeking out spots where you can swim in a deep sea, where you feel weightless”. As an architect, Jaime Oliver recommends one visit John Utzon’s house in Porto Petro. And Paloma Hernaiz’s idea is to sail around the island on a yacht.

In general, the group detects a highly positive tendency towards an increase in appreciation of that which is typical, of things eminently Mallorcan. Travellers are looking for authentic experiences on an island that is unique in the world. “Nobody comes to Mallorca for the hotels, but for Santi Taura’s restaurant, for the museums, the galleries… But it does offer a wonderful range of complements”, asserts Carmen Cordón, a hotelier and journalists who speaks passionately of the island. And she adds that “as restorers and hoteliers, we are the ones most interested in this type of experience, a minority market niche but one with a great impact”. 

Everybody agrees that something visitors will see on the island is that the cliché about the Mediterranean character – extroverted and cheerful – is not true of Mallorca. For Joan Puigserver, Mallorcans “are calm, friendly and in the rural world one finds the gene of our reserved character”. The llosetí (native of Lloseta), Santi Taura, points out that “we are used to welcoming people, to being visited and invaded, but Mallorcan cuisine is largely unknown”. Carmen Cordón, who is from Aragon, feels that “Mallorcans have many years of cosmopolitanism behind them, but they preserve their essence. And they are extremely clever: the local hoteliers have exported know-how to the whole world”. Puigserver says that the islanders don’t move around much and always frequent the same beaches, villages and restaurants, because their concept of distance is different to that on the continent. And Pere Joan’s experience proves this: “There are places I don’t go to because like that, I feel the island is bigger. It’s good not to have seen everything”. 

The range of tourism services on offer in Mallorca has changed a great deal over recent decades. We are reminded of this by architect Paloma Hernaiz who says that, when she first came here, twenty years ago, “specific enclaves were being exploited where huge numbers of people came who didn’t leave much money here, because the tour operator took it all”. But now, “small shops and hotels for different types of budget are dotted all over the island”. 

Carmen Cordón also remembers that, when she arrived seventeen years ago, “balls of dried grass would blow through the streets of Palma of a Saturday night, like it was a deserted town”. Nowadays, there is a broad, interesting and diverse range of nightlife on offer, and “Mallorca is blazing the trail to be followed by international tourism”. For decades it has been a mature destination, and now it is a cosmopolitan destination, accustomed to receiving foreigners, and one which is also “innovating, attracting quality and ‘foodie’ tourism”. 

This is confirmed by chef Santi Taura, who gives the example of the Raiguer district, which “has positioned itself at a high level of gastronomy with restaurants where the chef has taken over the running of his or her business and offers hitherto non-existent options on Mallorca”. He believes that changes for the better need to start with oneself: “I commit to Mallorca by researching its cuisine and its products. I believe that this sets a trend and is a hallmark of quality”. For him, Mallorca has it all, and although it is a busy destination in summer, “this is how it should be so that we can direct our focus towards where we are interested in. The most obsolete things on offer should go, but let’s not forget that it would be easy to fall back into the crisis”. Carmen Cordón agrees with him vehemently: “You have to come to this island by plane. We need a certain volume of passengers so as to have good connections to the capital cities of Europe”. 

For Pere Joan, a large part of the attraction of Mallorca is due to the fact that it is an island, because “people think of islands as somewhere that is separated in space and time, a kind of bubble”. And he emphasizes the fact that some foreigners have managed to create unique spaces that prove that you don’t have to destroy the region in order to offer quality proposals, like Hotel Formentor or the Sa Bassa Blanca museum in Alcúdia, a visit to which he recommends. Bubbles inside the bubble.

The architect Jaime Oliver loves this concept, “because on Mallorca we live as though we were the centre of the universe”. He contextualizes the diverse development processes the island has undergone: “Mass use and gentrification are large-scale movements. The evolution of tourism in the ‘60s and ‘70s can be explained by the Europe of the time, just like the phenomenon of going out to live in the suburbs or the subsequent return to the cities, an urban revival that also takes place in New York, London or Zurich”. 

He also feels that the crisis has left something positive behind it – nothing and nobody grows without control, and the island is naturally positioning itself in a sophisticated, exclusive market of tourists who visit it all year, “experiencing the city and with an interest for local things. This is the tourism we are most interested in”. Everybody agrees. Paloma Hernaiz adds that today, there is more awareness and more money than in the ‘60s and ‘70s, “because what happened back then was terrible. We have to rehabilitate hotels, offer pleasant accommodation that attracts a different type of tourism. And it’s very important to preserve nature”. 

The guests agree that this is an inspiring island. Carmen Cordón sets forth the example of Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria, “who travelled all over the world and stayed in Mallorca to live, because the nature here is spectacularly beautiful”. Pere Joan is convinced that “the time spent here by artists like Miró has attracted different people and helped open up our artistic perspective”. Santi Taura, who works with local products and cuisine, is incapable of conceiving his work without Mallorca. And Joan Puigserver says that “we Mallorcans who have dedicated ourselves to culture are continuously inspired by this region”.

Paula Serra closes the debate by proposing a stimulating challenge: Does Mallorca have a colour, an odour, a flavour? Two distinct greens reign in Joan Puigserver’s life – that of the orange trees and that of the olive trees of the Sóller valley. Pere Joan likes the patchwork of ochres, browns and greens that you see from a plane, or “a dramatic sunset, with clouds on the horizon, with colours ranging from blue to orange and pink”. Santi Taura, who frequently walks in the mountains in search of twigs, stones or wild mushrooms, identifies the island with the aroma of the forest, with “all the blues of the sea, from the darkest to turquoise above a sandy bottom, and with the strong flavour of Mallorcan olive oil”. Paloma Hernaiz praises the odours perceived during a stroll through the Tramuntana mountains and the flavour of spicy sobrassada. And Jaime Oliver is graphical and specific: “The turquoise colour of the sea at the Ses Salines headland, the flavour of a good ensaimada and the smell of the mountains after the rain”.

 

The dilemma of growth
For Pere Joan, the arrival of tourists in the ‘60s opened up Mallorca to the world: “It was the onslaught of the world of pop and colour in a black-and-white post-war world”. But planning is needed, because “today, different types of tourism overlap which cannot grow infinitely. And many Mallorcans have a second home, so we are almost doubled”. He wonders if it is better to concentrate or disperse, and Jaime Oliver picks up the baton: “This has been the great dilemma since Le Corbusier, but it is more sustainable to make skyscrapers. In spite of everything, Mallorca is a good place to live from, interesting for working and having a family, with great quality of life”. 


The island of the future
With regard to the future, Carmen Cordón hazards the suggestion that “Mallorca will be an island with select tourism, like Monaco, globally famous and a beacon that will show the path to be followed by the sector”. Pere Joan extends the shadow of science fiction: “If urbanisation at the present rate does not stop, the island will be as populated as Los Angeles”. Paloma Hernaiz expects “the new buildings will have more design and quality”. And Jaime Oliver dreams of an island with zero consumption, with no dumping in the sea, because “you’re more aware of the limits here”. Santi Taura trusts that “we will have recovered the cuisine, the olive groves, the oil presses and the dairies. But we have to do it well, as we have with the wine”.


Full article (p. 62)

 

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