An Amazing Concept – a very special place
Occasionally, just occasionally you come across a product or concept that sounds so perfect, so “right” that you wonder why you have never heard about it before. Then human nature kicks in and you persuade yourself that it’s not that good or you go out to prove it’s failed in some other way! I must admit that when I first heard of SunParkLiving on Lanzarote I thought it sounded too good to be true. However, I had known the founder and his family for a great many years. I knew what professionals they were and I decided to jump on a plane and find out what it was all about for myself.
The first pleasant surprise was the cost and choice of flights. The charming and functional Arrecife airport serves over 60 destinations including over 20 in the UK and Ireland. With many of the Low Cost Carriers using it, I had a great choice of flights at budget prices. All good so far! I arrived at the resort late in the evening and it was not until I woke to brilliant sunshine and a panoramic view that I started to realise what a very special environment SunPark really is.
I sat down with the founders Gil Summers and his charming Spanish partner, Patricia Dominguez. They carefully explained what Sun Park IS and equally explained what it is not! Historically, Sun Park, was a chain-owned 3 star hotel. Very nice it must have been BUT that is all it was. You came, you slept, you left. You had probably zero contact with the people next to you even if you could speak German or Spanish or were interested in talking to noisy teenagers or loud members of a week-long hen party. In short, it was a typical tourist hotel which benefited from being in a great complex in a lovely Spanish coastal town, Playa Blanca. That would not have made it special to me. Gil continued, “When we took over the hotel we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve and we knew what we had to do to achieve this. Our intention is to build an Active Living Community where people over the age of 50 can join us and build a new life in an affordable, safe and secure environment.”
I asked how this differed from some of the other options for people from northern Europe perhaps looking to move to the sun for the sake of their health or their wealth. Gil carefully explained the differences. Gil and Patricia and each member of the community (the Sun Rockers) are developing the perfect concept that I had initially imagined. Financially, there is NO deposit required and a simple monthly rental covers maintenance of the resort and grounds, taxes, insurances and everything else you are faced with if you rent a property in Spain. I stopped Gil there as this opened a very interesting chain of thought. “So, Gil, you are telling me that people can come here pay one month in advance and gain full benefit of everything you have to offer. This is hugely more attractive than renting a property, paying maybe up to 4 months’ deposit, ensuring it is compliant with the new Spanish laws with its energy certificate, arranging a NIE identification number, registering on the local census and then often being liable for local taxes, maintenance, insurance etc”. “Yes,” he replied laconically. I looked at him, waiting for more. “It is genuinely that simple”, he continued. My mind then looked at another option much favoured by the Over 50 visitors to Spain. “So, Patricia, it’s clearly much easier and realistically less expensive than renting, what about purchasing a property?” “Everything you mentioned above is still true, when people look at the REAL costs of buying a 100,000 euros home is going to cost almost 120,000 euros by the time you have added all the fees, costs, mortgage set-ups, charges, deposits, legal disbursements etc Remember how much people have lost on property in the past few years. Ouch!”
Gil jumped in at that stage, “Steve, the money is one thing. Sure, one could make a financial logic to stay here but that is not the focus. We want people to be here for what it is and not necessarily because it is less expensive or more viable than any other option. When I talk to the Sun Rockers initially, my focus is always on the ethos, not their finances. We are building a community of people who want to be involved in Active Living. All we provide is the framework, the bricks and mortar, if you prefer. The community is run by the community where everybody is equally important. A tree surgeon and the brain surgeon may well both be brushing the terrace this afternoon. Somebody who has never ever worked in retail could be running the community shop this morning. This is NOT a rest-home or a care-home. We have no nurses or doctors on site. Everybody is encouraged to become involved in making the community a little bit better every day in every way. ”
By now, I was getting to the real heart of the concept. People are offered a relaxed, safe, secure environment in a magnificent location where everybody is treated and respected as equals. In short, a unique concept! I started to reel off a list of what Sun Park is not but Gil stopped me. “Forget it. Think what we ARE and not what we are NOT. This is unique.” I had to agree with him. Sun Park IS unique and I can see that they have a runaway success on their hands. I can also see quite clearly that it is NOT for everybody. Some would prefer maid-service every morning. Here, I am my own maid. Some would prefer all-inclusive 24/7. Here there are dozens of cafés, bars, restaurants within a few minutes’ walk or you can do what most Sun Rockers do. They cater for themselves and regard this community as their home and not a 14 night hotel break. To them building up a friendship with a Sun Rocker who is teaching them chess or playing petanca with their neighbours is exactly what they are looking for. Some look forward to the Yoga classes that they have organised for themselves whilst others improve their swimming in the lovely pool.
To be honest, now that I had grasped just what Sun Park was, the opportunities with Active Living were now beginning to excite me. I asked Gil and Patricia what their future plans were. I was not surprised how focused they were, “First, we want to develop Sun Park into a model community and then we want to duplicate the concept. Lanzarote needs more of these communities, the Canaries definitely do and there is no reason whatsoever why we cannot develop into Europe and further. Forget the buildings, forget the bricks and water. What is important is the C.O.M.M.U.N.I.T.Y that we build in each location. Wherever we go the ethos will always remain the same: Active Living for the Over 50s in a safe, secure, relaxed and caring environment.”
I thanked them for their time and went for a wander through the beautiful grounds as Gil and Patricia met new arrivals who had been for a month in January and were returning for another six or more months. Everybody greeted each other with genuine affection, as long lost friends. At that moment, I realised that SunPark was special, very special.
Yes, SunPark IS unique and I would encourage you to visit Lanzarote to see whether it is for you. Currently, they offer a one-week “trial” which they prefer to call a “Getting to know each other” for just 199 euros. There is no commitment to stay longer or return but I think you will realise that if you ONLY want a holiday then there are other options. If you want to consider Active Living, then it most definitely is a very attractive opportunity. Please visit their excellent website and take the time to watch the videos from real SunRockers who explain what SunPark means to them. Once you have seen these videos and you want to know more contact Gil and Patricia. Who knows, I might see you here! I look forward to that!