Planes, Trains and Paramount Studios

Putting Murcia On The Map

by Tina Tait

Hopefully, some good news for Spain's economy and in particular, the Murcia region. Despite the criticism, scrutiny, change of government, and lack of funding, Spanish officials and private investors alike, seem to have been successful in navigating through the infamous red tape and numerous hurdles which should now result in a much needed boost to the economy and secure the future for the region.

As several phases of infrastructure are moving a step closer to completion. Investors are expected to start buying. Growth of the economy will largely depend on three main factors coming together:

CORVERA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT:

Officials have said that the Corvera Airport will be fully operational as early as spring 2012. Over 500 workers are working day and night shifts to meet the scheduled opening deadline. Corvera's runway is 3,000m by 45m and is capable of handling any type of aircraft including international flights. Many features of the airport are now completed, such as the passenger terminals and the 32m high control tower. Nearing completion now are the runways, and boarding gate areas. The Airport's initial capacity is set to accommodate three million passengers a year, including absorbing the travellers who are currently landing in Alicante, because there is no other alternative. According to a study by the University of Murcia, 40% of passengers taking scheduled flights from Alicante's El Altet airport are, in fact, from the Region of Murcia. Details regarding which airlines will be operating from Corvera have not yet been released. José Ballesta, the Minister for Public Works, has stated that most of the airlines interested in operating at the airport are subject to a confidentiality agreement. However, as of last month, directors of the low cost airline Jet2.com have confirmed that the airline will transfer over to Murcia's new international airport, but that flights will not commence until November 2012. Jet2.com currently flies directly into San Javier, Murcia, from Belfast, Blackpool, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle. The nearby San Javier Airport is set to close for commercial travel use and will return to military use, so there is no competition with Corvera. Last year, government agency, AENA invested some 70 million euros in the completion of the new runway and upgrade of the parking facilities at San Javier, which only opened in March 2011. Critics are now questioning whether tax payers will now have to foot the bill for the improvements made to San Javier that will no longer be used for commercial purposes. AENA has stated the staff from San Javier will be transferred to the new facilities at Corvera.

AVE FAST TRAIN:

In the spring of 2012, construction work will commence on the AVE railway link in the region. The ADIF rail infrastructure company has guaranteed that the AVE high speed train link to Alicante will be completed in 2012 and reach Murcia by 2014. Lorca station has also been confirmed, but the extension on to Cartagena currently remains without a completion date. The European Investment Bank is financing the project to the tune of 500 million euros which will transport passengers from Madrid to Murcia via Alicante. The project is designed to eventually link from the French border to Algeciras in southern Spain. The AVE (Alta Velocidad Espana, an acronym for the word 'bird' in Spanish) will stop at Corvera Airport and will then connect from the Airport, directly to the Paramount Theme Park in Alhama de Murcia. This will be the first airport in Spain to have its own high-speed train station.

The AVE project began in the 1990's with the intention of connecting railway links from all major cities in Spain. When it is completed, passengers will, for example, be able to travel to Madrid in less than 4 hours from Barcelona travelling up to speeds of 350 km/h. The project, part of Spain's strategic transport plan (PEIT), is entering into its second phase, adding another 3,000 km of track by the year 2020. The AVE train system looks likely to be the envy of Europe and the world when it is completed.

PARAMOUNT STUDIOS THEME PARK:

The Paramount theme park is to be based in Alhama de Murcia and is scheduled to open by Easter 2015, although there are rumours circulating that the theme park might open a year ahead of schedule. Works are expected to begin on the theme park as early as March 2012. This, it is hoped, will generate some 22,000 jobs, and is projected to attract over 2.7 million visitors in its first year. It will be built over an area of 36.5 hectares (365,000 square metres).

The planned theme park is located  just a 10 minute drive from the Condado de Alhama resort, 30 minutes from Mar Menor and 40 minutes from Hacienda Riquelme. These have been considered the three best selling holiday resorts for Polaris World this year. This has regenerated interest in the area and therefore, an increase demand, due to the half price bargains being offered by the banks. Some banks are now even offering 90% mortgages.

Theme Park Zones

City Adventure: This will include three major attractions: "Titanic" (a huge reproduction of the ocean liner form based on the movie), a roller coaster ride based on the movie "The Italian Job" and a virtual reality adventure from the movie, "Mission Impossible".

Lost Valley: Featuring a water ride trip down the Congo River, a re-creation of the crypt from "Tomb Raider", and a roller coaster ride from the legendary thriller, "Beowulf".

Woodland Fantasy: This is an area created predominantly for young children. It will feature a large tree, magic workshops and interactive adventures from the movie "Spiderwick Chronicles".

Plaza Futura: This will feature a "Star Trek" theme, a spectacular recreation of "War of the Worlds" and a tunnel trip of terror, based on the film 'Paranormal Activity".

Main Street: This will be an avenue of hotels, restaurants and a shopping centre with a pavilion exhibiting the attractions available in the region of Murcia and throughout Spain.

Auditorium: This will have the capacity to hold 15,000 people and will be the largest convention centre in the region of Murcia.

The resort is projected to be the centre of the Paramount film studio empire in Europe. The Vice President of Paramount Pictures Corporation has stated in a recent press conference: 'The tourism infrastructure offered within the region of Murcia provides ideal conditions to bring world-class entertainment to the people of Spain, and its growing number of visitors.' Jesus Samper who is head of the Spanish development company hopes to build a theme park to compete with Disneyland Paris and one that will become a "European destination in itself."

Investment funds and business groups have already expressed an interest in the project, including Russian billionaire and casino operator Oleg Boyko who made a surprise personal visit to Murcia.

However, even at 3 million visitors a year the Paramount Park would operate on a much smaller scale than Disney's resort, which attracted 15.3 million guests in 2009.

This news will please property investors who expect to see significant growth over the next few years. Prospective property investors, property owners and holiday rentals located in the surrounding areas of Alhama de Murcia, including the Polaris World resorts such as Condado de Alhama, El Valle, Mar Menor and La Torre Golf Resort are set to benefit from the predicted increase of tourists and holiday makers.