Palma's Palacio de Congresos. | Joan Torres


After eight years during which work was on, then off, then on again, the Palacio de Congresos convention centre has finally been handed over to the public-sector company which oversees it (the company is controlled 50:50 by the regional government and Palma Town Hall).

The cost of the centre and its adjoining hotel has totalled 140 million euros. The plan is for it to open some time between October and December this year. At present, the company is working on a new tender specification for its private-sector management. If it fails to secure this, the Plan B (one that the company does not want) would be for the public sector to operate the site.

To coincide with the reception of the complex from the contractor, a press conference was called. The president of the company, Palma's tourism councillor, Joana Maria Alcover, and the regional government's vice-president, Biel Barceló, both welcomed the fact that the work had finally been completed. They said that there were events already in the pipeline from December, which would involve some 20,000 attendees. There have been "numerous requests".

The schedule for the Palacio to be opened was, therefore, proceeding "as planned", Alcover confirming that the work on its construction under the main contractor Acciona had been completed "one hundred per cent" and been done correctly. Acciona will, though, be on stand-by for the next two months in case there is any work that needs to be done.

For the time being and until an award for the management of the complex is made, the Palacio company will meet the 30,000 euros monthly "minimum" cost for electricity, water, gas, security, cleaning and maintenance. One thing that is pending is a series of acoustic tests: these are to be done once seats are installed in the two auditoriums.

The tender specification could feasibly mean that there will be two private-sector companies - one for the convention centre, one for the hotel - though initially there would be just the one. The company's board has yet to decide for certain.

Barceló said that the work had finally come to an end after what had been "many complications and difficulties" over periods covered by three administrations (including the one which had initiated the whole project, the government of Jaume Matas). Since the start of the current administration last summer, Barceló stressed that the government and the town hall had been working together to ensure completion of the work. "It was the last step, but it was very important." Wearing his tourism minister's hat, Barceló added that the Palacio will help to promote conference and exhibition tourism.

Meanwhile, there is an outstanding issue concerning the Barceló hotel group, which had originally been given the award to manage the complex. Following the decision to annul this (based on a report from the University of the Balearic Islands), the issue was placed before the courts. Alcover said that she had "total respect for the justice system" and added that the company had not received any judicial intervention, e.g. an injunction, to prevent it proceeding.