Jun. 25, 2021


José María Vicens Gómez

Spain

José María Vicens Gómez

President, Cercle d’Economia de Mallorca

“The sun is our oil, as we have 2,800 sun hours per year.”

BIO

José María Vicens Gómez is President of Cercle d'Economia de Mallorca.


What role does Cercle d'Economia de Mallorca play in the long-term planning of the island's public policies, especially in the economic field?

Cercle d'Economia de Mallorca is a not-for-profit organization that works in the Spanish region of the Balearic Islands, and its action is based on four strategic goals. The first of its goals is to maintain its independence and impartiality in matters that affect the region. We bring together companies. Its 275 members and 32 collaborating entities make the Cercle a plural and independent organisation of all types of private, sectoral or political interest. The diverse professional profiles and political sensitivities of its members makes the Cercle a socially transverse institution. These qualities give the Cercle a unique personality and a pluralistic view consistent with the complex society of today. Second, we are an active collaborator of public institutions. Along with other organizations and private companies, we work with the public sector with the goal of establishing strategic alliances. In order to improve our governance, we meet with public officials and leading politicians from all parties. A third area is the revitalization and progress of society in general. Cercle d'Economia de Mallorca seeks to attain sustainable growth, and with this in mind, we are working to push for a roadmap for transformation of the Balearic Islands. This is a small region in Spain, but it receives about 16 million tourists per year. Mallorca and Baleares in general have historically been a strategic location in the Mediterranean. Despite the small size of the archipelago, the four islands are extremely different from each other. Menorca is a biosphere reserve, Ibiza is the internationally known leisure destination, Mallorca is a mix of the two islands, and the fourth island is Formentera. In all, we have a strategic location, an extraordinary international airport and outstanding power and telecom connectivity. Over the last 50 years, Baleares has grown significantly due to construction and tourism. We need to maintain an excellent tourism experience to receive quality visitors who respect the environment. In addition, there is an opportunity to develop new projects that help to diversify the economy of the region, following the examples of other regions in Spain such as Málaga. Málaga over the last 20 years has worked to create a technology industry that accounts for 20% of its GDP. Tourism remains important to the city and surrounding region, but the city has managed to diversify into other sectors of the economy. For example, in Palma de Mallorca, which concentrates 40% of the island's population, there is a project being approved to align several sectors. This is a project that will be developed by 2030 to become a business hub in the city. It is located five minutes away from the city center and is expected to act as center for innovation located in the capital of the Balearic Islands: Nou Llevant innovation district.

What would be the main goals in terms of economic diversification, and which sectors are better positioned to serve this purpose?

Every economic plan has to be led by the regional government. Health tourism can be an important area, as there can be long- and short-term health tourists that not only dynamize tourism facilities, but also health facilities such as clinics or hospitals. The excellent weather conditions are a perfect fit for such tourism. The sun is our oil, as we have 2,800 sun hours per year. That is also one of the reasons why many foreigners buy homes on the islands. They want to spend the winter enjoying the island's pleasant weather. Additionally, there are some sectors that are growing significantly. The Balearian economy is to some extent already diversified, although it might not be widely known. We need to develop sectors that are already performing well in the island, such as biomedicine. There are many companies in Baleares that are working with universities to conduct research in areas such as cancer. Energy transition has great potential as well. A great deal of investments are being made in solar power facilities and even in green hydrogen. Besides, there are many investments in elderly care, which will become a strategic area given the ageing population.

How has the pandemic affected the economic direction of Mallorca?

The COVID-19 crisis has been a shock for the residents of Baleares. Our GDP declined by 25%. Because of that, we are focusing on improving the quality of the tourism sector and developing alternative economic sectors. As a result of that, there are sectors that are experiencing rapid growth. Some of these investments come from large hotel chains that have revamped their hotels. One of the most important hotels, Formentor Hotel, has been bought for EUR165 million. Right now, we need to receive large capital investments, and that is happening already. We see many funds acquiring hotels. For example, Apple Leisure Group is investing in Mallorca. We are seeing a reconversion of the economy. Before COVID-19, we did not feel the need to find alternative businesses. However, now we have realized it is necessary to develop other complementary sectors such as academia. We have a university among the best 500 in the world according to the ShanghaiRanking. Despite being a small university, it is highly specialized in certain scientific areas, such as physics. The university is also assessing the type of professionals that the islands will require in the coming years thanks to the presence in the island of technology company such as OmniAccess or Robot Corporativo.

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