Magaluf now an upmarket resort? The infamous party destinations enjoying a bold makeover

Hugh Morris
Magaluf is leading the charge in rehabilitating its reputation - This content is subject to copyright.

Magaluf is now a family resort.

This is the proclamation from the Majorcan destination as it passes half way on a five-year effort to shed itself of a sleazy, lads-on-tour image that earned it the moniker of “Shagaluf”.

Fewer “young travellers” - read 18-30 - are visiting, the beachfront now boasts its first five-star hotel, and instances of public disorder, drunkenness and balcony jumping (or balconing) are down, says  a triumvirate of the resort’s hotel association, the town hall and Melia Hotels International, which has invested some £177million in Magaluf to aid its regeneration.

The attempts to rid the Spanish party spot of its debauched past has been well-documented thanks to a number of seedy controversies - including a film showing an 18-year-old woman performing sex acts on 24 men during a pub crawl - and the deployment of British police to the resort.

But Magaluf is by no means the only lads holiday destination seeking a new lease of life.

Magaluf is three years into a five-year regeneration plan Credit: Getty

Ibiza’s shift towards creating a more refined, culinary appeal is well known, too, while the famous party haven of Ayia Napa has been welcoming the arrival of renovations, expansions and upgrades. Its mayor Yiannis Karousos says the resort wants to move away from a "lads holiday" style of tourism. 

“The changes that are happening in Magaluf are reflective of a change which is a couple of years ahead of where it needs to be,” says Tom Smedley, managing director of Compare-Travel.eu, which counts ladsholiday.com among its portfolio.

“Society’s changing, drinking culture is changing. Early on the drinking was the main part of the holiday, now it is a part of it. It’s reflective of the UK: increasing sophistication of society is driving it.

Ibiza too has undergone a major gentrification over the years Credit: Getty

“People want to go to nice hotels, like they want to go to cocktail bars on a Saturday night in the UK.”

Smedley says that the most searched-for resorts for “lads holidays” in 2017 were Zante, Malia and Ibiza, in that order, with Magaluf in seventh.

“While the Magaluf authorities are clamping down on the culture, over time it’s working its way out anyway. I really think in five or so years, the lads holiday as we know it will be over.”

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Magaluf is not the only destination to announce crackdowns on loutish behaviour. In July, the Croatian island of Hvar introduced fines for numerous alcohol-related misdemeanours, while the local government of Kavos, in Corfu, brought in strict late-night music restrictions.

Even in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, a destination that thrives on its reputation for cheap thrills, authorities have launched a crusade against drunken tourists.

In August the deputy prime minister, Valeri Simeonov, joined a police raid on nightclubs accused of flaunting noise restrictions, before posting on Facebook: “In our country there is lawlessness and bacchanalia - we will change it.

Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, wants to go upmarket Credit: AFP/NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV

“We will attract more solvent tourists, and we will have a better quality of tourism.”

Club 18-30 has always been at the forefront of such holidays, and is currently on its website selling the merits of traditional party destinations from Malia to Kavos.

But Thomas Cook, the brand’s parent company, says that booking patterns in young people are changing.

The operator says that Kos and Zante are becoming increasingly popular with party holidays and that, though each offers a healthy nightlife, budget and the prospect of a more “authentic” Greek experience are bookings factors.

Ayia Napa in 1999 Credit: Getty

As far as Ibiza goes, Thomas Cook said: “Bookings for 18-29 year olds are declining while, bookings for 30-39 year olds are on the rise, as the Ibiza faithful get older - and richer.

“Thomas Cook has also seen family holidays rise by 6 per cent as Ibiza regulars move into the next phase of life.”

Smedley says that advanced event or activity and nightclub bookings and fewer all-in package holidays means resorts are under pressure to commercialise and diversify.

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Ibiza Rocks House at Pikes

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“The culture moved on from go and get absolutely drunk every night to planned daytime activities, and seeing some big name acts, more of a festival culture,” he said.

There followed improvements in standards of accommodation.

He cites the 2008 introduction of the Ibiza Rocks branded hotel to the Spanish island. “There were very large pools and a live DJ playing. It was the first of the ‘stay in the hotel’ hotels to open," he says.

“This was the turning point for the standards of the accommodation - traditionally it was extremely basic (think Inbetweeners film), [but] now it moved to a slightly better standard.”

It is a consortium of hotel groups, investing as much as £1million between them, leading the charge in Magaluf.

Sebastián Darder, president of the Palmanova-Magaluf Hotel Association, said: "The destination aims to continue consolidating new quality product and the new customer segmentation, which has allowed us to increase occupancy, profitability, and the social and economic sustainability of Magaluf, as well as continuing to improve the reputation of the destination among adult travellers and families.”

The town’s deputy mayor Andreu Serra put it more bluntly: “We have implemented a zero tolerance policy towards antisocial behaviour and crime, and the result is very clear.”