Bulletin deputy editor Humphrey Carter talks to British tourist industry legend Hugh Morgan whose personal and professional relationships with the Balearics stretch back some 55 years and are still going strong today.
Hugh Morgan, 72, first came to Majorca on holiday when he was aged just 19 and a few years later, after having worked on the mainland as a resort representative and an area manager on the Costa del Sol, was appointed area manager for Majorca by the late Harry Goodman, aged just 21.
Hugh, born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, was awarded the Cruz Oficial de Orden de Merito Civil for services to the Spanish industry by the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos, in 2010 and the Globe Travel Awards 2013 for Outstanding Achievement of the Year and to this day is still extremely active in the tourist industry.
During his career, Hugh has been the MD and CEO of many of the UK’s leading tour operators and travel companies and has been responsible for bringing millions of British holiday makers to the Balearics, a destination he considers is second to none in the world.
His passion for the region runs so deep he has owned a property in Puerto Pollensa and then Pollensa for many years and now has invested in the centre of Palma.
“Every time I land in Palma it feels like I’ve returned home. For the best part of the past 55 years my family and I have spent so much time on the island, second and third members of the Morgan family now live on the island, we’re more comfortable in Majorca than in the United Kingdom.
“What’s not to love about the islands. We’ve had, and continue, to enjoy so many wonderful times in Majorca and its neighbouring islands, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera, all superb and different in their own ways.
“We love the warmth, not only of the excellent climate throughout the year, but also of the people.
“In the north east of the island, you’re living on the edge of the sea at the foot of the spectacular Tramuntana mountains and then you have towns like Pollensa which have changed and developed so much over the past 20 years.
“In fact the Balearics as a whole has developed in such a short time into one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in the world, and I include Minorca and Ibiza.
“Ibiza today is at the very top of it’s game catering for a vast spread of people, all the way up to the super luxury celebrities from all over the world and, here in the Balearics, we’re just a two hour flight from most major European cities - what a bonus.
“Minorca is still proud of its British history, Lord and Lady Hamilton and all that, that is why the British love going there and I’m sure that soon its winter season will come alive. It has great gastronomy, a rich history and culture, its world famous Minorcan black horses and the fiesta of San Joan which attracts a global audience, and, away from its pristine virgin beaches, plenty of opportunities for activity holidays during the low season.
“Ibiza, is very much a summer hot spot for the rich and famous with its super luxury hotels and villas, but it too has its culture, unique food and wines, its fashion, the Ibiza sound has become a global brand name.
“As for Majorca, it brings it brings the Balearics together because it has absolutely everything anyone could wish for throughout the year.
“Living or staying in Palma, and the choice of luxury quality hotels is outstanding, you can easily pop out and wander around the city. It’s safe, secure and fascinating.
“From the shopping to some of the best restaurants and bars in Europe. It’s rich culture - we’ve got the best films showing in English and world class concerts and performances at the Auditorium and the Teatro Principal and, for the more active, you can get away without a car.
“As a capital city Palma is so compact and simple to walk or cycle around. Within no time at all, you can be walking along the sea front to Arenal in one direction of Palmanova in the other, You can even walk to the airport! Or, hike up to Bellver Castle or beyond through the woods and, for cyclists it’s a great base. You can start off in the shadow of the awe inspiring Cathedral and head off up in to the Tramuntana mountains, picturesque villages like Valldemossa, Deya and Soller, for example.
“If you don’t fancy cycling to Deya, century old electric train and then head up hiking in the mountains and follow the excellent network of walking routes, it’s all so simple.
“What is more, there is all the water sports, the sailing, it’s one of the locations for some of the best sailing and water sport championships and regattas in the world, and that also applies to Minorca and Ibiza.
“You’ve got a wonderful selection of first class golf courses, horse riding, mountain climbing and now you’ve got a first rate football team, what’s not to like about the Balearics?”
“And, it now caters for all markets. Families who may be on a tight budget to Britons who are cash rich but time restricted and what they want is to head somewhere close to home where they can relax in luxury, pamper themselves on a short break and the Balearics is the obvious destinations. It’s got private jet facilities, helicopter transfer services and tourism flights and one has to mention the super yacht and charter industry.
“The selection of ports and marinas on all of the islands is vast and every year, the Balearics is a magnet for most of the largest private yachts with the wealthiest people in the world on board.
“It has a network of excellent quality hotels, some of the finest in the Mediterranean and the many of the most enjoyable for young families.
“It really is the most charming place and has only improved during the 50-plus years I have been working and living in Majorca and traveling the islands.
“The Balearics offer value, quality for money and a standards of living like no other destination in Europe.
“Why catch a long haul flight from the UK when you’ve got everything you could possibly need and more in the Balearics? There is never a boring day, be it a local fiesta or market, not to mention the spectacular celebrations over Christmas and New Year.”
Hugh has surfed on a wave of travel-business knocks and opportunities for decades; recessions, the Gulf Crisis, 9/11, the ash crisis – and is now seeing everything go full-circle with a renaissance in package tours.
“Package holidays are not the same as in the 70s when you could only fly out on a seven-night or 14-night holiday.
“Now there is flexibility.
“You can fly out when you want, whether it’s for a long weekend or as long as you like, short or long haul, there so many choices. We have reps in some hotels and at others we have a virtual concierge for clients just like a point of contact if there is a problem.”
He has also realised that whenever there has been a global travel glitch, many people return to default destinations, particularly the Balearics, still the top Spanish destination in the United Kingdom, or Spain in general. For Hugh, it’s long way from Viva Espana! in 1970s Lloret de Mar, where there were no phones.
He said: “If I needed to contact someone it was a 13-mile journey to the local exchange. Even then you would have to book the call, return the next day and wait another hour and a half.
“If a plane was delayed I would have no idea what was happening so my main job was to keep the coach driver awake while we waited for passengers to arrive. Fog was a nightmare!”
It was a travel crisis that took Hugh’s career to another level. When Clarksons went bust in 1974, thousands of passengers were stranded.
Intasun boss Harry Goodman saw his opportunity and pounced. He told Hugh to ‘buy up beds’ in Majorca, so the young rep strolled into 500-bed hotels such as Pollensa Park and offered them 250 pesetas a night with the promise of filling the hotel.
“That was my introduction into buying. We did that everywhere and that’s how Harry worked. Intasun became one of the big names in travel, almost overnight and key to that was Majorca and the Balearics and ever since, the Balearics have grown and, what ever the challenges and hurdles have popped up in the global tourist industry, the Balearics, due to its decades of experience and know-how of setting global examples to the tourist industry always manages to rise above the problems.
“The Balearics is a wonderful product to sell from the British industry’s point of view, always has been and always will be and with the winter, low season, very much on line and alive now the Balearics has a long and fantastic future to look forwards, along with the millions of Britons who have been visiting the region for generations.
“They will continue to come and many will, I am sure, eventually decide to invest in a holiday home. It’s the perfect home from home and just a hop, skip and a jump away from the United Kingdom.”