A[/dropcapAt the end of the 1970s, Antonio Ferrer came up with an almost-revolutionary idea: The resourceful Mallorcan bar owner was the first to serve German draft beer in the holiday mecca Playa de Palma, mainly frequented by German vacationers. His pub, the so-called ‘Köpi’ in the C/Miquel Pelliser (also called ‘Bierstraße’ – beer street), was the beginning of countless other music and drinking temples, where, 15 years later, German and Northern-European party tourists got wasted without restraint.
Today, about 35 years later, the children of Antonio Ferrer and Pedro Marín, the owner of the Hotel Playa Golf are starting a counter-offensive in the same place. Under the name of ‘Palma Beach’, Mika Ferrer, his brother Juan Miguel, and their businesspartner want to liberate the Playa de Palma from its present, grubby image of extensive drinking. For this purpose, they founded an affiliation and marketing company about a year ago, which is supposed to soon turn Mallorca’s most important holiday resort into a quality destination. The private initiative now has 38 partners. In addition to various bar and restaurant operators – including the Ferrer family itself, the two golf courses of Puntiro and Son Gual, as well as the Arenal yacht club – five Mallorcan hotel chains, including Riu and Iberostar joined.
The flagship of the classy campaign for Palma Beach is currently the six-storey Llaüt Palace, which opened its doors in December 2016. The 5-star hotel has been modernized for 35 million euros and offers its guests a dream view over the bay as well as a fantastic restaurant on the panoramic terrace. “We want to help the Playa de Palma to become more glamorous again,” explained the director at the opening. For the time being, one of Palma Beach’s latest additions has been the luxury property agency Engel & Völkers, which opened its first franchise branch here at the end of May.
“To be admitted in our project requires the fulfilment of strict specifications regarding the quality of the project,” says Mika Ferrer. Which means that not everyone who wants to be is automatically welcome at Palma Beach. “The point is to convey a uniform image. Away from the party and drinking tourism to a more serious and high-quality holiday and leisure offer. Our models are similar international holiday resorts like Miami, Venice Beach, or Cancun.
There, exuberant parties of young holidaymakers are accepted, but only for a few days a year, in the so-called ‘spring breaks’. He does not want to reject alcohol on vacation categorically. “However, it should not be that tourists staying here in a 4- or 5-star hotel stumble over the first drunken heaps on the way to the beach in the morning,” says Ferrer. Shops with cheap products or even fake-brand products, as well as bars that lure pedestrians in with free drinks and happy-hour offers, are not welcome in Palma Beach.
The project leaders know that the path from Playa de Palma to Palma Beach will not be an easy one. “A large proportion of the entrepreneurs based here continues to rely on tourists that want sun and booze. To convince them that this type of holiday is an obsolescent model will surely cost us a few years of educational work. Nevertheless, we are convinced that we will succeed with our concept eventually.”
The fact that Playa de Palma has already taken a major step towards Palma Beach, is reflected by many modernized hotels, bars, and restaurants, as well as the 15 so-called ‘balnearios‘ set on the nearly-six-kilometre-long beach line, which are being rebuilt. For decades, they were regarded as epicentres for the binge-drinking of German package-holiday tourists; the No. 6 (the ‘Ballermann’) wrote tourism history. But this seems to be coming to an end. Since the beginning of this year, the balnearios are being transformed into modern chill-out lounges. Sangria drinking from the plastic buckets sold in the supermarkets will definitely be out.
“For our project to be successful, we obviously also need the support of public institutions,” says Mika Ferrer. Apart from investing in the modernization and enhancement of the first line, the Palma Beach initiative is requesting more police presence at the beach from Palma’s municipal administration. “Drug dealers, pickpockets, and prostitutes have spread here in the past years. This has to be stopped,” says Ferrer.
In the coming months, the management – as well as the other members of Palma Beach – will continue banging the advertising drums. To bestow the Playa de Palma with a modern, fresh, and above all healthy image, this summer will see numerous sports events such as yoga sessions on the beach, marathon runs, bicycle races, as well as the sports and street art festival ‘Mallorca Surf Action’ happening there.
Photos by Sepp Julius Lohsteiner & Sara Savage.