Magaluf scrubs up for a new type of tourist

The Mallorcan resort's notorious foam parties are still in evidence, but developers are now hoping to attract the smart set, says Kate Simon

A young man lurches towards me, his eyes swimming. It's just turned 8pm, yet he's already dead drunk. So are his mates – the one in the mankini and the green and orange wig must be pretty far gone to bear his buttocks quite so boldly.

I'm in BCM Square in Magaluf, epicentre of boorishness on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It's less a square and more of a strip, flanked by bars with names that evoke the Eighties – Top Gun, Baywatch – but which bang out tunes off the top of the dance-music charts. David Guetta's "Titanium" is looping the loop tape tonight.

On podiums at the back of the square a couple of exponents of the perfect booty are shaking them to lure punters into BCM Planet Dance. Its name is a justified boast – this is not only the biggest nightclub on Mallorca, it's also the self-professed home of "the biggest foam parties in Europe". Up to 4,000 revellers can jump about in the soapsuds here.

Around the corner, the Magaluf Strip (Carrer de la Punta Ballena) pulsates day and night. Lined with more than 50 bars, the competition to get bums on bar stools is intense. You can buy a pint of Red Bull and vodka for just €4.50; a jug of sangria offers more volume for €7.50, but the clincher is surely the invitation to "Drink all day for €12". Down the road, outside Secrets Lap Dancing Club, a bunch of lads are playing football. There's a stench about this place that I just can't get out of my nostrils: backed-up drains, stale vomit, stubbed-out fags. That Las Vegas saying should apply here: what happens in Magaluf stays in Magaluf.

But all this is set to change. Or so says Susana Terrén, public relations and communication manager of the Calviá Beach Resort, an enclave of four hotels at the southern end of Magaluf's sands owned by Spanish company Meliá Hotels International. Meliá is just concluding the first of a three-phase, three-year multimillion-euro project to transform the seaside town.

Two of its hotels, Sol Antillas and Sol Barbados, dating from the Seventies with 757 rooms between them, have recently been given a facelift, while two new properties, Sol Beach House and Sol Wave House, opened earlier this month to a more sophisticated 21st-century crowd. Meanwhile, bars, restaurants and shops in the surrounding streets are being encouraged by Meliá to raise their game or be bought out by the company and offered to businesses providing a higher-quality experience. The proposition is to take Magaluf upmarket.

The idea is born of necessity. Spain's financial crisis, political change, falling prices in the area and the restrictions imposed by Mallorca's reputation as a seasonal holiday destination have forced a rethink by Meliá, which has 19 hotels on the island. And the company has concluded that the only way to stem the decline of this "mature resort" is to try to replicate the experience offered on the surrounding coast, that of ritzy marinas such as Puerto Portals and coveted golf clubs including Mallorca's top course at Poniente, a five-minute drive inland.

Meliá has decided to lead the way by trying to attract high-quality tourism through major investment in its own hotels – just how many million euros will be spent, the company declines to reveal. The move has been encouraged by the cash-strapped local and national authorities, from city hall to Spain's tourism ministry, which have lent a hand by speeding up the paperwork.

But can tourists really be persuaded that Magaluf can change? "We are trying to bring new people to Magaluf, but things have to be done slowly because the change will be drastic," says Susana. "It's going to be complicated this year because we're going to have new people together with those that normally come."

Part of the challenge will be getting local bars and restaurants to offer better service and look more attractive, and it seems Meliá is determined to get its way. "We want businesses to try to change with us. If not, we will try to find another solution," says Susana. "We have to slowly change the bars [on the beach] to different franchises. They're already ours; they're rented from us. This is all the resort, so we have to build the place to look like a resort."

Phase one, Susana tells me, involves the recent upgrade of Antillas's interiors, which includes new en-suites, and the refurbishment of its neighbour, Barbados, where rooms have been refreshed; a new outdoor pool has opened and there are plans for an underground space with a spa, conference rooms and shopping mall. But the big story is the new lifestyle hotels aiming to break the Magaluf mould, which Susana is keen to show me.

We start our tour just over the fence from Antillas at the Beach House. It turns out I've been invited to visit less than a week before the hotel is due to open its doors to the public and the Beach House is still a construction site. But it's not hard to conjure up in my mind's eye the urbane style Meliá is striving to achieve for "the first lifestyle destination on the island".

The hotel's director, Francisco Ramos, joins the dots for me in the unfinished spaces. "You have to imagine what we're trying to create," says Francisco, as he takes me into an empty room bounded by glass for ocean views and he gestures to where a sculpted sofa draped with languorous folk will be and the console where the VJs will be stationed.

We move on through a tile-floored shell, where a few of the Balinese day beds give a sense of what's to come, to what will be the restaurant and its terrace. Here, too, is the highlight of the new hotel, an area of empty concrete channels that will soon be filled with water and set with more day beds to become the beach club, run by the world's leading proponent of chic al fresco relaxation, Nikki Beach. "We will have music playing through the day and then, at 7pm, the atmosphere will change. It will be more mellow and the beach club will be beautifully dressed for the evening," says Francisco.

I worry about the noise for guests in the hotel's 98 rooms and five two-bedroom suites above (none of which are ready for me to see, though I'm told they will be furnished in sleek minimalist style, with flat-screen TVs and kitchenettes). But my concern just reveals that this place isn't for the likes of me. "There will be music. This will be a beach-party atmosphere, but that's why people will come here," says Francisco. And how will they keep the clientele smart? Francisco is candid: "Price. Some people will come once and find it too expensive and they won't come back."

A few minutes' walk from the Beach House, there's more of the same slick style in the 180 ocean-view rooms at the Wave House, a former apartment block set in a prime position at the centre of the beach promenade that has been bought up by Meliá (though a few tenants remain). Sarah Hill, the Wave House's groups and sales manager, takes me on a hard-hat tour of the beachfront adult playground, capacity 1,000, and shows me its centrepiece, two surf simulators – a double FlowRider and, for the more advanced, Europe's first FlowBarrel.

There are also pools, a surf store run by Quiksilver and Billabong, a sports bar with giant screens and a DJ station, the roof of which doubles as a VIP area. We take in the view from this vaunted position. Magaluf has a truly lovely beach, with iridescent waters. "We want to talk about extending this pier and putting a helipad on it," says Sarah, "but we'll see."

Meliá is not alone in trying to change the fortunes of Mallorca's declining resorts. Marcial Rodriguez, managing director of the Balearic Islands Tourism Council, tells me there are private initiatives happening in other areas of the island – at Canyamel, in the north east, and Playa de Palma in the south. He welcomes the activity: "It's important that these private initiatives go ahead and our government wants to help them." And he's confident that Magaluf can transform. "We know there is no one thing that will change the place in just one or two years, but it's a start. There are other companies trying to align with the new overview of Magaluf." Indeed, leading Balearics live music promoter Ibiza Rocks Group has just announced it will be rebranding Fresh Aparthotel Jungla to become a Mallorca Rocks Hotel next year.

Rodriguez also confirms that Russia is becoming an important market for the island. Some 170,000 Russians visited Mallorca in 2011 and 200,000 are expected this year. That may be dwarfed by the numbers visiting from the UK, with 2.1 million of us going to the island last year, but there's potential for huge growth of Russian tourism – and they're big spenders.

What the future holds for Magaluf remains to be seen. At the gate for my flight, as I head back to the UK, I'm sharply reminded of the present. Two young men are sprawled on a row of seats, comatose. There's no doubting where they've been on holiday. One opens his bleary eyes, spots the queue forming for the plane and rises to his feet, which then do a drunken dance, propelling him towards me. Eight in the morning, or eight at night, it's happy hour around the clock in one corner of Mallorca.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Kate Simon travelled to Mallorca courtesy of easyJet (0905 821 9000; easyjet.com), which offers return flights to Palma from £116 in July from Gatwick, Southend, Luton, Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Flights to Palma are also available through British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com), Bmibaby (0905 8282828; bmibaby.com), Jet2 (0871 964 0016; jet2.com), Monarch (08719 405040; monarch.co.uk), Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com), Thomas Cook Airlines (0871 230 2406; flythomascook.com) and Thomson Airways (0871 231 4787; thomson.co.uk).

Staying there

Kate was a guest of Sol Antillas (0808 234 1953; melia.com), where a week's holiday in July costs from £808 per room, based on two sharing, including breakfast. A week at Sol Wave House costs from £868 and Sol Beach House costs from £928 on the same basis.

More information

Spanish National Tourist Board: spain.info

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits