Published in the Majorca Daily bulletin
Tuesday 12th February 2015
Photographs by Rachel Fox
Thousands of people are dependant on ‘Brand Soller’ now that our place in the universe is under the spotlight. The days of small town tourism, adequate restaurants and a relaxed view of the fiestas has gone for ever. The question is whether we are victims or victors of our own success story?
Let’s say from the outset that there is a vocal lobby who would prefer that nothing changed. They love the past and see nothing wrong in staying at a time and place in history that they loved. The Swing Festival that rocked our City Centre and the Prawn Festival that broke all records for visitor numbers means nothing to them.
Brand Soller has been helped by UNESCO defining it as the Cultural Centre of the Tramuntana and therefore at the heart of the UNESCO award for the area. The choice of the Soller Valley by the Jumeirah Hotel took the area to a new visitor with loyalty and trust in the Jumeirah brand. This in turn encouraged people to come here who had never thought about it before.
The fine restaurants of the Soller Valley and new high end shops which have appeared in Soller and the Port are all evidence of change in this area. The visitor numbers to our fiestas and the increase in hotel bookings to coincide with them has been off the scale. So now all concerned with the tourism industry in this place have decisions to make. Standing still is just not an option.
The focus on interior tourism is helping the budget traveller as more hostel type accommodation is coming on stream under new criteria. The houses used for this have to be old, in the City Centre and suitable to convert into multiple bedroom and bathroom establishments. The level of interest in this way of developing accommodation is extremely high this year.
The rebranding of some of the Hotels in the Port to feature as Beach Resorts in their own right is gathering momentum. The Christmas and New Year Holidays are over and everyone has a paintbrush in their hands getting ready for the 2016 season. February 1st sees at least four hotels opening for their 2016 year plus all our favourite restaurants.
Every month of the year there is a cultural festival in the Soller Valley which is celebrated in the traditional way. Music, drumming, dancing, fire runs, devils, bonfires and mayhem which all have historical roots. The City conversations currently are concerned that this gives the impression that the Soller Valley is a Fiesta Theme Park. Nothing could be further from the truth as the fiestas all celebrate Saints Days and Soller events that have been commemorated for hundreds of years.
The distinction is drawn in the Town Hall which has separate departments that deal with cultural events and another with commercial. The definition of the distinction is that if there were no visitors the fiestas would still happen as these are for local people to celebrate their heritage. The commercial events are structured to bring huge numbers of new visitors in to the area to introduce them to the Soller Valley and the delights of the Orange Festival, the Prawn experience, the Swing Party and the many more events in the pipeline.
While those in power make decisions the rest of us look forward to next weekend which sees Soller celebrating San Antoni.The local schools will be making their ‘Demoni’ masks this week and they will have bonfires in the school playgrounds where they chase the demons away and sing the San Antoni songs.
On Saturday 16th January in the evening outside the Town Hall the bonfire will be lit and the communal barbeques will be held. Bring your own meat and grill away to the sound of devil’s music and the Aires Solleriques who will play for the party. This is always a great traditional night and leads into the events of Sunday.
San Antoni loved animals and on Sunday at 3 pm the Blessing of the Animals takes place near the Town Hall in the centre of Soller. Animals of all shapes and sizes parade past the priest who blesses them and sprinkles holy water. Ferrets, snakes, parrots and more exotic creatures join the cats, dogs and ponies for a blessing.
This leads into the most unlikely event of the year in the Soller Horse Races. The Soller Valley is home to over 50 beautiful horses and many of them are brought to the centre for a blessing and then to take part in the races for the ribbons. This race used to take place up the main street at the side of the Town Hall but last year was relocated to the car park. Where will the horse race happen this year is the million-dollar question at the moment.
Brand Soller is constantly changing its criteria in time with the businesses of the Soller Valley. All are trying to keep up with the success they have created and know that it is a gift that must be nurtured.