General view of the Hotel Formentor. | R.L.


Antoni Gelabert Massot was a Mallorcan painter. Born in 1877, he was a relatively young man when tourism - as a coherent industry in Mallorca - can be said to have been founded. This was at the end of 1905. The Fomento del Turismo de Mallorca, the Mallorca Tourist Board, brought together individuals (men) from various walks of life in developing this new industry. Paramount for the development was the creation of infrastructure - hotels, roads, ports - to blend with the island’s outstanding landscape. It wasn’t unusual for painters to be closely involved with the tourist board; they were, after all, a principal source of promotion - paintings of the landscape. Gelabert was one of them.

At the age of fifty, Gelabert attended a meeting of the Fomento’s board. The date was November 14, 1927. It was to prove to be a very important meeting. For the first time in the annals of the tourist board there was reference to a person and his association with a place subsequently and inextricably linked to the development of tourism in Mallorca - the Argentine Adan Diehl and Formentor. Diehl was admitted to the tourist board’s membership. Some months later, a civil engineer, Antoni Parietti, became a member.

Road to the lighthouse of Formentor

Parietti conceived the construction of the road to the Formentor lighthouse. Diehl and his wife had the idea for the hotel. Emblematic landscape thus met emblematic infrastructure. Almost one hundred years on, and the Diehl and Parietti creations, so crucial as they had been, are emblematic of a Mallorca far from the comparative peace with itself as it was before the Great Depression and the political turmoil that resulted in the Civil War.

These creations are nowadays emblematic of tourist saturation, of planning regulations, of the collision between the environment and business. Barely a week passes without there being a latest issue, which is elevated in terms of general importance because of the historical, emblematic character of Formentor and its infrastructure. I struggle to think of anywhere else in Mallorca that commands the same level of attention and for the same reasons.

Putting the traffic restrictions to one side, over the space of less than a week, not one, not two, but three issues have arisen. None of them new, they all relate to the hotel. These are issues with which I can understand if there is some fatigue, so often do they crop up. But they are issues that can’t be avoided, because underlying them there are serious points.

Opposition parties at Pollensa town hall and the environmentalists GOB have been accused by the governing parties of wishing to prevent the redevelopment of the hotel. This is not the case, they reply, and something that GOB have said sticks in the mind. What is important to them is “whether municipalities are guarantors of legality or the interests of a company, no matter how much prestige it gives”.

The town hall administration and the hotel owners insist that they have complied with legal obligations. For the owners, I have some sympathy. The redevelopment has been delayed, which means that employees are not back at work on full terms and that additional jobs are not being created. I fear that those who have been placing obstacles have been forgetting the workers. Yet GOB keep coming back with more, requiring the guarantee of legality, their latest ‘denuncia’ concerning the licence for the reconstruction. There is “no evidence” that the town hall has issued one. Therefore, they are demanding a suspension of the work. Tomeu Cifre, former mayor and aspiring mayor but currently the councillor for urban planning who is the one to issue all statements regarding the hotel (rather than the present mayor, Andrés Nevado), once more insists that the town hall has been acting correctly. It may well have been, but why do the challenges keep arising? Is the latest, as Cifre suggests, due to the imminent election?

Coinciding with this row has been one concerning the waste from the redevelopment - the earth and stones that were excavated at the site and piled high on the emblematic Formentor landscape. It turns out that the expected volume of waste was exceeded by 65%. The plan for the waste stated 45,039 cubic metres (74,764 tonnes). The total is in fact 74,758 cubic metres (124,098 tonnes).

And what is now going to happen with it all? Modification to the waste management plan envisages that Mac Insular, the company in Mallorca which processes building waste, will use it for rehabilitation of the landscape. The daft idea of transporting it all, creating new piles elsewhere in Pollensa and eventually using it in the creation of a couple of car parks has been completely vetoed.

The third issue has to do with the car parking by the hotel. The courts are currently seeking to resolve the matter of the main car park, which - in theory - became municipal property in June 2021 but has continued to be operated by the hotel company. Separate to this is a smaller plot, a green space, which opposition parties say was used for two and a half months as a car park without the necessary licence or with land classification allowing for this use. The opposition is demanding that the company hands over “improper income” from this smaller car park.

So there we are. Three issues in the space of almost as many days. Having written this, others may have come up. Formentor is most certainly emblematic. It might be said that Diehl and Parietti, not forgetting Gelabert, have a lot to answer for. There again, how were they supposed to know quite how contentiously emblematic Formentor was to become?