Who remembers the Estación Náutica? You could be forgiven for not remembering because it was all a bit of a flop. There was a national association of these nautical stations. It came under the national tourism agency, Turespaña. I say was, because as far as I’m aware it no longer exists, and where Alcudia is concerned, if it did ever really exist, very few people were aware of its existence.
This station, and this was just part of the problem with it, wasn’t a physical building. The name suggested one and therefore led to no small amount of confusion. The commercial port?; Alcudiamar? It was neither, because the station was more concept than bricks and mortar (or glass and aluminium). I recall that the tourist information office personnel in the port had to field the odd enquiry as to the station’s whereabouts. They were as in the dark about the whole thing as mostly everyone else was.
The idea for the station first surfaced in 2009. It was true that there were these stations elsewhere and that they seemed to function - inasmuch as a concept can be said to function rather than an actual facility. In May 2009, Alcudia’s was signed into being. So, what was it? As stated by the town hall at the official signing, it was “a tourist product with accommodation and water-sports activities sold as a tourist package that allows the tourist to engage in the likes of sailing and underwater activities and complementary activities such as golf and horse-riding”.
In order to become an estación náutica, levels of quality and service were demanded in order to be able to use the “Estación Náutica” brand. Among other requirements was one to tackle seasonality. This demanded a minimum offer of accommodation and water-sport activities from March to November. A minimum number of bars and restaurants were also needed for what was supposedly going to have been an initiative to bring twelve-month-a-year tourism to Alcudia.
According to the government’s Illes Balears Travel website, there is an Alcudia estación náutica, so I suppose we’ll have to take the government’s word for it (I don’t know how up to date this is), but there was precious little evidence of it in, for example, 2013, four years after it had been established in Alcudia.
I went searching for it on the internet. I assumed that I was a British tourist who was interested in water sports in Alcudia. I entered this into Google and, impressively enough, the estaciones náuticas website came up at number one in the ranking. I clicked on it and was taken to the entry for Water Sports Mallorca in Playa de Muro. Not quite Alcudia, but near enough, albeit that Playa de Muro is a separate resort and was not, therefore, an estación náutica. Moreover, what I had been taken to was the company Water Sports Mallorca.
I thought I would look around the website, so clicked “Destinations”. It didn’t work. I clicked “Accommodations” (sic) and then “Hotels”. Marina Suites Hotel was the first one that came up - in Gran Canaria. I tried a couple of other hotel pages. Not one hotel for Alcudia. I clicked “nautical activities” and then “kitesurfing”. All entries appeared to be for Delta de l’Ebre, which certainly wasn’t Alcudia. At that point I gave up.
My purpose in relating all this was because of the distinct feeling of déjà vu as well as a sinking feeling when the town hall proudly let it be known earlier this week that there was a meeting to discuss means of extending the tourism season - tackling seasonality, an aim which existed well before the estación náutica ever emerged. The Council of Mallorca and the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation attended this meeting. The discussion was about actions that need to be taken and about funding from the EU Next Generation Funds.
Active and nautical tourism were the main items on the agenda, the very same active and nautical tourism that the town hall signed up to in 2009. The town hall now notes that it is “already working on active tourism projects”, e.g. with the nautical sector, and that these are to contribute to diversification and a lessening of seasonality as part of post-Covid social and economic recovery. But why now? What happened to all the projects that were supposed to have flowed after 2009?
It could be that something will now be achieved. I hope that it is achieved, but I have my doubts, and the estación náutica saga supports these doubts. In addition, I can imagine that there will be scepticism among businesses, just as there was with the estación náutica.
At a meeting at the town hall to discuss the concept, there was business support for it, but there was also a view that it would end up being for the benefit of a small number of businesses and that most wouldn’t get a look-in.
It’s all very well coming up with these initiatives (and I applaud them), but they have to be widely beneficial or else there won’t be the support. Moreover, and perhaps above all, there has to be very clear marketing because that was never the case with the estación náutica.