Workers cleaning up at Tivoli a few weeks ago. / SUR

Workers cleaning up at Tivoli a few weeks ago. / SUR

Tivoli: an amusement park abandoned by its owners but cared for by its workers

The 50 staff are still furloughed, but they have been voluntarily cleaning and maintaining the park daily for months

Ivan Gelibter
IVAN GELIBTER

Passing through the turnstile at the entrance to Tivoli is like moving into a different decade. In fact, for very many people from Malaga, it is like going back to the last millennium, when a visit to this Costa del Sol amusement park was the height of happiness for children.

Over the years many things have changed, starting with the distances. What for children seemed long distances between the attractions are now a few metres. The big wheel is as it always was, and the rollercoaster, for which so many modifications were planned, remains the same, as if suspended in time.

Despite the dystopian atmosphere of any park which is closed to the public, the sensation is that Tivoli could open its doors any minute. The facilities are the same as they have always been but the grass is cut perfectly, almost as neatly as the palm trees have been pruned. Not a single straggly weed grows on its slopes and walkways, and only the dirty lake which holds the mystery ship makes one suspect that something isn't working as it should.

Viability proof

Even though the park was closed for many months in the first and second part of the pandemic, it did open for a few weeks in the summer of 2020. That was enough to show that the future of Tivoli World could be viable, although it would mean taking on major debt and making strong investment.

A view of Tivoli last week. / P. J. QUERO

However, since the last visitor left, over a year ago now, only the workers have come in - more than 50 people who are still furloughed but cling to an optimistic hope for the future.

Like a jungle

"Two months ago this was like a jungle. It looked like somewhere that was abandoned years ago and, as workers, we couldn't stand seeing it like that," says José Luis Guzmán, one of the staff, who began working at the park in 1990.

Like him, many others decided at the end of this summer that they had to do something about it. Despite the silence from Tremón, the firm owning Tivoli, about whether or not it was thinking of opening again, they wanted to make sure that if that day came, the park would be in perfect condition.

"If Tremón abandons Tivoli, it will be through no fault of ours," says José Luis. For several weeks now, and on a completely voluntary basis, employees and some ex-employees have been cleaning the park up. First, they got rid of the accumulated rubbish, then the weeds and undergrowth, and finally they pruned the trees and maintained the gardens.

Before the workers' cleanup. / SUR

Tivoli today. / Pedro J. Quero

"It's a shame that we have no water, because if we had we would have repaired the fountains and sorted out the lake as well," they say.

As SUR reported some months ago, the insolvency administrator, Juan Carlos Sánchez, admitted that during the months that Tivoli was open in 2020 (July and August), its turnover was 50 per cent of that of the previous year; a figure which enabled it to cover all its running costs. In fact, he said that if it was able to operate without making a loss at a difficult time with hardly any tourism, it would be viable under normal circumstances. However, he did recognise that in order for that to happen, the new owners would have to repay certain debts which had been outstanding for years.

"It is more than clear that the park is profitable, and that makes this situation even more incomprehensible," says Juan Ramón Delgado. This employee - who began working at Tivoli 41 years ago - describes everything that he and his colleagues have been doing in these past weeks.

"I believe we have taken more than 100 lorry-loads of rubbish and weeds from here. You can walk around the park now and that is all thanks to the workers, because we haven't heard a thing from the owners," he says.

Annoyance of the mayor

On Friday, the mayor of Benalmádena, Víctor Navas, who has been critical of Tremón since the start of the conflict, called on the company to come forward with information.

"The staff are very worried, because they have no idea what is going to happen from next month and they need certainty about what the company that owns the business intends to do with it. We know exactly the same now as we did two years ago, and nothing more. Tremón has never come back to the town hall to talk about Tivoli and its future," he said.

While the company makes up it mind, its heart and soul - the workers - are striving to have it ready so that it could open tomorrow if necessary.

"It's difficult, but Tivoli has always been a place of hope and dreams, and that is something that we have never lost. It's still there," says Juan Ramón.