Margaret Whittaker, OBE, is one of the leading businesspeople on the island. She is also one of Mallorca’s biggest fans. She talks to Bulletin editor Jason Moore about the present, the future and her plans.
Q.— We know that many local businesses are suffering as a result of Covid….in the long term does Son Amar have a bright future?
A. — “The House of Son Amar has a very bright future - and long-term success is exactly why we are making so many changes at the moment. We are working even harder and smarter to future-proof Son Amar.
No-one can predict the future, as 2020 and 2021 have shown us in such an alarming way, but with the dedication and the will of the Son Amar team, we intend to be more than ready for any other disaster.
It’s extremely important that the House of Son Amar, Mallorca’s centre of excellence in entertainment and events, remains the island’s and the tourists’ favourite.
Our plans are to ensure that we protect the business from the damage done by any future pandemics and the probable restrictions that will be imposed upon us. We have discovered that we ourselves must be the ones to find new ways to protect our business and our employees, and not rely on the necessary level of support from the government, which simply has been inadequate and in so many cases non-existent.”
Q.— When do you think that Son Amar will be able to re-open?
A. — “The House of Son Amar will come back to life this spring, 2021, starting with two newly designed outdoor areas – the Kingdom of Alcazar restaurant with a new Disney-style feel and the secret garden, Eden, hosting outdoor exciting and intimate musical entertainment and available for other special events. Later, as we reach what is normally high season, we are planning to introduce at least one of our new shows, hopefully both.”
Q.— You have mentioned ambitious plans for Son Amar, what do you intend to do?
A. — “Future-proofing Son Amar means that we need to invest, stretch our imagination and develop our skills. That means reaching higher levels of service, consistency, originality, and paying attention to utilising our idyllic outdoor spaces. There’s so many outdoor areas in this beautiful finca that we know have been under-utilised in the past. The courtyard, the Royal Terrace, the numerous rooftop terraces. Heritage, for example, the castellated rooftop terrace above the Alcazar restaurant, has been named for it’s magnificent views of the Tramuntana mountains, as Son Amar sits in the foothills of UNICEF World Heritage site.
We’ll be introducing ways to experience the special beauty of the island by publishing the best times to enjoy the glorious sunsets from all our rooftop terraces, including the one in Eden (the secret garden).”
Q.— Do you think that the Balearic government should be helping local business, which employ lots of people, weather the storm?
A. — “ Every government in the world has to dig deep and find the resources to support businesses. Without healthy businesses there will be mass unemployment, a loss of taxes, and a complete breakdown of life as we know it.
Every government that has been dealt this particularly difficult hand – the poison chalice as they call it – can be forgiven, to a large degree, for early mistakes but now, we, as a country and as an island, will be less forgiving of inadequate support.
Considering that the Balearics, and especially Mallorca, produce the greatest financial income to Spain, then at the very least Mallorca should be considered as a special case. This great gift to the rest of the country is entirely dependent on tourism and Mallorca has so much to offer. There’s no wonder that it has become the favourite European and international holiday destination for every age. We cannot afford to take any mis-steps that will damage an enviable reputation and one that is consistently improving and attracting this important wealth from abroad.”
Q.— What is Son Amar for you?
A. — “Like so many others, I fell in love with Son Amar at the first visit. It’s a love affair that has only grown deeper and stronger. I would protect Son Amar with my dying breath and I think everyone who works with me understands that and shares my passion to make sure Son Amar fulfils it’s amazing promise.
Unlike so many others, in 2007 I was delighted to be invited to join a group of Mallorcan businessmen from Soller, to invest in what had been a slowly declining business and, although in the background, to help in any way I could to breathe new life into such a precious and important part of the island’s recent history and success story.
For me it was the next phase of my life after building an extremely successful business in the UK, since 1969, Slimming World. 52 years later that business is still doing well as it adapts, as it must, to deal with the hit we took in 2020 and to safeguard and future-proof itself too.”
Q.— Could you say that Son Amar is a personal challenge for you?
A. — “Yes, it certainly has worked out that way. And, in the end, I couldn’t be happier to be the one who will see the emergence of a bigger and better Son Amar, the House of Son Amar. I am proud and thrilled to be working with the incredible team we now have, led by Martyn Smith from ‘Social’, the premier Palma nightspot, because a more spectacular, more dazzling, more thrilling Son Amar is exactly what we will achieve.
I never imagined that I would become the sole owner of Son Amar. That happened as the other shareholders and the CEO of that time, withdrew their financial support and I was the only one to keep the very necessary investment going. One of our biggest challenges was to legalise everything and to continue to keep up with the changes in the law affecting Son Amar. It’s a never-ending story!”
Q.— When do you think that Majorca will recover from the Covid crisis?
A. — “I’ve given my crystal ball a really good polish and so, I can predict that by the end of 2021 and into 2022, recovery will start in earnest. If we’re really lucky, a recovery of sorts will start when the airlines can start bringing tourists once again and that may happen in the late spring or summer. Let’s hope the roll-out of the vaccines is a success, albeit a little late in the day starting, and that with that invisible cloak of protection, the world can move onwards and upwards.
I sincerely hope and pray that enough of the great (and small) companies will survive and their experienced direction will have been enhanced by these last two impossible and very difficult years. For sure I have learned a lot and so has the Son Amar team.”
Q.— Do you think that Majorca should have priority treatment when it comes to vaccination because of the weight of the tourist industry?
A. — “YES! Of course. There really is no good argument for Mallorca NOT being treated as a special case. Do we want the businesses and the employment to restart this year. Yes! Does Spain want to recover the immense losses this pandemic has caused? YES! Do we understand that Mallorca is axiomatic in making this happen? YES! YES! YES!”
Q.— Local hoteliers are prepared to buy the vaccine for their staff, would you consider doing the same?
A. — “YES! But it’s so important that we have the right roadmap in place to protect the island from the accidental import of the virus, whatever new strains emerge, and to vaccinate every worker and every resident.
Q.— How have the tour operators reacted to your future plans?
A. — “We couldn’t have wished for a more enthusiastic response from the tour operators and agencies, old and new. They can see that what we are building at the House of Son Amar has such a wide appeal to every age and every nationality that it gives them so much flexibility and so many more options to offer their guests, who are hungry for the island - and all its charms. So, of course, they are very excited about it all, with good reason. For us at Son Amar, we simply can’t wait for the unveiling. We cannot wait to welcome back our loyal clients and we can’t wait to surprise and delight every new client and show them just what talent there is on this exquisite island of Mallorca.”