This week, Palma is going to be hosting its first ATP Champions Tour Event at the Palma Sports and Tennis Club featuring tennis legends such as Tim Henman, Pat Cash, Henri Leconte, Thomas Muster and Thomas Enqvist, and the man behind the event and reviving the sports club believes that sport is the key to winter tourism in Majorca.
Mikael Landström and his wife Johanna, planted themselves in Majorca in 1996. They arrived with a great deal of experience in the tourism industry having worked for leading Scandinavian and European tour operators such as SAS, Sunwing and Airtours and had extensive knowledge about Majorca. But in 1996, they decided to go it alone and bought the Hotel Portixol just outside Palma. Two years later, after much needed renovations - Johanna has been in charge of the interior designing of all the couple’s projects - they opened and the now four-star superior hotel is considered to be one of the best boutique seaside hotels in Europe.
The hotel went from strength to strength, proving extremely popular with the Scandinavians and the British, the two main markets and, in 2004, the couple bought the Hotel Espléndido in the Port of Soller. They opened the following year, with the concession to run the stretch of beach in front, and it was not long before the four-star superior hotel was winning awards and high acclaim from travel writers and the media in general around the world and enjoying the same reputation as the Hotel Portixol, while catering for the same key markets.
Mikael and Johanna had, in the meantime, established the Portixol Group, which is quite simply the two of them. They opened a ski lodge in the exclusive and leading Austrian ski resort of St. Anton, the Valluga Hotel, bought the international Swedish school in Palma, and this week they are going to embark on their latest venture which is going to have the same impact on Palma and its target markets as their three hotels.
“Yes, I admit we have taken a few risks but thankfully they’ve all paid off and we can continue moving forward,” Mikael told the Bulletin. Two years ago, Mikael decided to bid for the 50-year concession for the Palma Sport and Tennis Club. “We had had a few clients who had gone there to play tennis and who came back complaining about how rundown the place was and that got me thinking. So when the city council put the concession up for new bids, I thought we would enter a project. We did and we won.
“So, we began renovating and improving the centre into what is going to be an extremely professional sports centre, tennis club and spa with a swimming pool especially built for training as well as relaxing, crossfit, TRX and extensive gym facilities, special cardio exercising rooms, two luxury apartments to accommodate visiting professional groups and a bar and restaurant.
“But while we were rebuilding the club, the president of the Balearic Tennis Federation, Toni Ferragut, who has been extremely helpful and supportive, came to see me and said that we had to something with the five clay courts the club has. “He asked me what I intended to do and, to be honest, I had not really thought about it. So, we began talking about Palma hosting a world-class tournament. Obviously, we’re too small for a full ATP tournament, plus that is very expensive, but I began talking to some contacts and the ATP, and we decided to join the ATP Champions Tour Event circuit. To be eligible to compete on the ATP Champions Tour, players must have been either a World No. 1 during their competitive playing careers, a Grand Slam singles finalist, or a singles player in a victorious Davis Cup team; and they should have retired from the ATP circuit. Each event can also invite two players of its choice to take wild cards, and we have a class list of players competing this week plus we have the tournament for the next few years, so it is going to be a great way for us to open Palma’s latest sports complex with the tournament while also help to put Palma on the global sporting map a little more,” Mikael said.
And sport, he believes is key to winter tourism working in Majorca. “The Hotel Portixol is open all year and the Espléndido for nine months, although we are staying open longer every year. But our new sports club and spa is going to be open 365 and it is aimed at amateurs who enjoy sport and want to join the club as well as professionals who want to come and train here. We have the facilities and the staff to cater for elite sportsmen and women and along with that, we’ve got the weather to also attract people from overseas to come and train here.
“I have seen a real shift in the tourist industry over the past five to six years. Yes, in the height of the summer, the majority of people come for the sun, it’s too hot to do anything else. But during the rest of the year, more and more people are coming here to be active.
“More and more people are looking to remain active while on holiday and we’ve seen how the island has become a Mecca for cyclists, amateurs and professionals from all over the world. We have all the golf, the Nordic walking boom, the rock and mountain climbing, hiking, bird watching, diving, kite surfing, tennis, rugby, marathons, Ironman competitions, the list is endless ... Majorca can provide this all year round and I think that is what we, as an industry, need to be concentrating on.
“And of course, the jewel in the island, which for me is the best place in the world to live and be, is Palma. It has evolved so much in such a short period of time. It has become a serious city break destination, it’s like a mini Barcelona. We’ve got the quality hotels, boutique and traditional city hotels, excellent restaurants, great shopping and a fantastic airport, although the Scandinavians have the same problems as the British in the winter and that is a lack of flights. However, we have brought the matter up with the local authorities and there do appear to a few more flights from Scandinavia during the winter, but we still need a much more extensive winter flight programme. But I guess, if the hotels are not open, airlines will not fly here, it’s a chicken and egg situation.
“However, I think we are moving in the right direction. People are waking up to the changing market and how holiday habits have evolved. We, for example, do all we can to move with the times - that is why our two hotels here are nearly always full, accommodating 250 guests and, excluding the sports centre, we have to employ 150 staff. In order to succeed in this business, in which the margins are thin and the competition constantly mounting, one has to know the industry and know what one is doing, but being here in Majorca does help.
“The island may be small but it’s big enough to offer such a wide variety of different products. So, providing we do that well, we’ll continue to be champions.”