An annual battle between holiday resorts to attract visiting tourists and their wallets each summer is over, and it appears that the Spanish island of Majorca has won over the British market at least.
Since the advent of package holidays some fifty years ago initiated by holiday companies such as Thomas Cook and Thomson Holidays, whole areas of Spain and other European countries have built their economies around tourism, and each year they hope that the holidaymakers will come to their area. Some islands like Menorca and Majorca are almost entirely dependent upon having a modern economy and infrastructure through incoming tourism.
In June this year predictions were for a dire 2007 for the holidays and flights market, with Spain and the Spanish islands including Menorca and Majorca being badly hit. The important UK market was slow, and British tour operators had reportedly close to a million holidays left unsold for the rapidly approaching peak summer months.
But after an unseasonly warm April in Britain when many people were considering taking a holiday in traditionally popular areas of the UK for holidays such as Scotland, Devon and Cornwall, the move towards an overseas holiday changed as quickly as the weather. Widespread floods led to mass holiday bookings and flights to Majorca, to the extent where some tour operators were able to return their holiday costs to full prices – and from a million unsold holidays people were suddenly having to take what was available.
Further worries were for the German market – along with the UK a vital market for holidays in Majorca, with the environmental costs and carbon footprint dissuading some from taking flights to Majorca.
In recent years traditional holiday destinations such as Spain have faced new competition from Eastern European countries, with often lower cost holiday packages and flights, but despite initial signs of a real challenge, Spain seems to have seen them off for the moment at least, with overall visitor numbers for 2007 expected to rise compared to last year.
Among the tourists to the number one destination of Mallorca for holidays this year have been the Spanish Royal Family. The Royals traditionally spend their summer holidays on the island at the Marivent Palace, with this year being no exception. Previous guests some years ago during their holidays in Majorca have included Princess Diana with Princes William and Harry while they were still toddlers. The Spanish Prime Minister also traditionally visits Majorca for a meeting with King Juan Carlos.
The Royal Family holidaying on Majorca helps the island’s image with the mainland Spanish population, and gives it an upmarket image, with many families taking a villa holiday in Majorca.
Majorca has a rich holiday history compared to most tourist destinations, and in Europe only the French Riviera can compare, where the Victorian English frequented Nice, to the extent where the main boulevard was named the Promenade d’Anglais.
Nearly 200 million people have taken a holiday in Majorca over the last hundred years, with British and Germans the two nationalities heading the list of arrivals. The British have tended to head east to Magaluf and Palma Nova, the Germans to Arenal in the west of the island.
And while Majorca has a rich history of tourism, it is keeping up to date with modern expectations to make sure it stays at the top of British and German holiday plans. Arenal has just opened a new 40 million Euro aquarium, while Magaluf has opened a new theme park based around Indiana Jones type adventures, with both new attractions family orientated, and enough to keep holidaymakers happy in case the weather in Majorca isn’t quite what they had hoped for.
The first hotel to cater for tourists dates back as far as 1903 when the Grand opened her doors for business, the first of many hotels in Majorca to spring up between now and then. The tourists then were Europe’s wealthy, and they were delighted with Majorca and what the island had to offer, securing the island as a holiday destination well before the days of low cost flights and package holidays had become a reality some sixty years later.
Perhaps not seeing that Majorca would become one of Europe’s top holiday destinations for allcomers, the island first tried successfully to pitch herself as a niche market for honeymoons in the 1950’s, with the second world war and Spanish Civil War having brought earlier attempts at incoming tourism into a state of suspension, and the first true package holiday tourists arrived in 1952.
But it was the advent of the jet that really boosted Majorca, and made flying to Palma a real possibility for millions of Europeans. With flights to Majorca coming down in price significantly in recent years and a host of airlines operating from airports across Europe, Majorca has never been so accessible, and the traditional fortnight has been surpassed by frequent 3 and 4 day trips two or three times a year for many people, and with many Europeans who are environmentally conscious moving away from long distance holidays in destinations such as Florida, the map of Majorca might well appear in more households when planning a holiday.
The increase in the number of tourists to Majorca has been measured, and it makes fascinating reading. In 1950, Majorca and her sister islands of Menorca and Ibiza received under 100,000 tourists. By 1973 this had grown to over 7 million for Majorca alone, and last year it had risen to over 9.5 million.
The possibility of reaching ten million visitors in a single year is a very real possibility for the island.