With the Majorca football tournaments for police, government and military personnel and amateur teams becoming the largest sporting event of its kind in Calvia, the new local council decided this year to send a team on a fact-finding mission to Holland to see for themselves what the two men behind the largest tournament of its kind in the world, Hans Emde and Harry Engels, have achieved over the past 33 years and the kind of atmosphere and excitement they can help recreate here in Majorca when the fifth tournament is held in Santa Ponsa early next May. The deputy mayor and councillor for tourism and commerce, Antonio Garcia, accompanied by Francisco Colom from the tourism department, who had helped with the logistics with the previous tournaments, were in Holland for the grand opening ceremony and spent the following day watching the games and touring the five sports centres used to stage the tournament.
Garcia has been involved in tourism for over 40 years. He was the socialist councillor for tourism when his party was in power between 1999 and 2003. But he has also been involved in the hotel and restaurant industry and set up the island’s first hostelry school, of which he was the director for eleven years. Now he is back on Calvia council and appears to have a very clear roadmap for the future of the municipality’s tourist industry. "We want Calvia to be the gateway to Majorca," he told the Bulletin during an interview in Holland this week. "We intend to continue working hard on upgrading the resorts and encouraging hoteliers to renovate and improve the rating and quality of their establishments. This has already started and there are scores of projects on the table to be completed this winter.
"But, at the same time we need to be looking at events and products which will help us prolong the tourist season and also meet the change in demand. Obviously the three peak summer months - June, July and August - sell themselves to sunseekers, but during the rest of the year we need to be attracting a wider range of visitors here and to do that we need to be offering a much broader and exciting range of products, and things like these annual football tournament are vitally important to our plan.
"Firstly, they are being held in early May, early on in the season. In fact, as far as Santa Ponsa is concerned, it helps to literally kick the season off because it brings in some 1,500 people from all over the world, and that is not only good news for the hoteliers but the local commercial sector as well. You have to think that for the best part of a week, they fill all participating hotels, and some groups stay on and make a holiday of it.
"And, because we all do our best to make sure they are well looked after and provided with quality accommodation and services, they will leave as happy and contented visitors and tell their friends and colleagues when they get home to China, Eastern Europe, the Middle East or elsewhere in Europe. Quite often, word of mouth is the best form of promotion because people not only rave about the place they’ve been to but also the wonderful experience they’ve had and enjoyed here. The pitches are just a few minutes walk from their hotels and the beach, just a few more minutes walk.
"So, that is why we are here, to see how it all comes together and how we, as a council, can do more to help Harry continue expanding. Just think about it, since the first tournament on the island four years ago, come the fifth next year, he would have well over doubled the number of participants and that is why Calvia wants to encourage more large sporting events to come to us. It’s the future of tourism and the key to prolonging the season and re-establishing an all-year tourism industry. At the same time, we are working on promoting what the region has to offer cyclists, hikers, birdwatchers by not only providing better routes and information but also by encouraging hoteliers and the industry to develop more and better products in these areas.
"We are also working on giving the municipality’s culture and heritage more prominence in the tourist sector, be it the Tramuntana or local fiestas; more and more, people want to explore their destinations. Granted, we have the problem with all-inclusive hotels, but we are working on bringing in some law and order and that may involve free drinks only being served with meals, so for the rest of the day, people will have to venture out into the resorts for a drink, etc. We know there is a large demand for these kinds of package holidays, but it needs to be controlled better.
"And, of course, while on the one hand we are busy working towards an all-year tourist season, we need more winter flights. Connections to the UK, in particular Scotland, are virtually non-existent during the winter. Why are there 18 daily flights to Palma from Germany during the winter and none from outside of London? These are all areas we are working on and will be some of the main topics we shall be discussing with the tour operators and the airlines at the World Travel Market in London next month.
"We also need to make central government in Madrid understand that the Balearics should have control of its airports because we know what we want and in which direction we want to go in order to continue competing with emerging destinations while opening up new air routes and encouraging airlines to operate a year-round programme to Majorca"