Renfe increased the AVE services. CARLOS MORET
Last weekend a new peak season officially began, at the height of the economic crisis, and travellers appear to be deciding from one day to the next that they cannot resist having a holiday. The avalanche of last-minute bookings saved the month of June and has brought optimism to the tourism sector on the Costa del Sol, where hotel occupancy levels appear to be approaching those of last year, which was 73.5 per cent. The sector had been hoping for this news because it wants to maintain last year’s occupancy levels. There is even better news: the hotels are managing to maintain their booking levels without having to resort to special offers.
The president of the Aehcos hotel association of the Costa del Sol, José Carlos Escribano, says business owners are confident about the attraction of the area and boosted by the fact that the last-minute rush to book was not because people were tempted by offers. The general director of the Fuerte Hoteles chain, José Luque, describes it well: “They book their hotel at the moment when they decide to break open the piggy bank and go on holiday because that’s what they really need”.
The head of the Costa del Sol Tourist Board, Elías Bendodo, released information about the expected statistics this week. “We are hoping for an increase of one per cent in the number of Spanish tourists between June and September, although we believe there is likely to be a reduction in the amount of money they spend”, he explained, before adding that the numbers of international travellers are expected to grow by at least five per cent: “We predict a stagnation in the British market, a considerable increase in the German one, a rise of between five and 10 per cent in the Scandinavian market and an increase of 30 per cent in the number of Russian visitors”, he said.
The Tourist Board figures show that 4.9 million tourists are expected to arrive on the Costa del Sol this summer and this could result in more than 54.5 million overnight stays in hotels and other accommodation. Despite the fact that visitors may spend less, the Tourist Board calculates that overall earnings of around three billion euros will be generated this summer in Malaga province. “More tourists will come, but they will stay for a slightly shorter time and will spend a little less”, says Elías Bendodo.
Business owners in the sector agree that the average length of stay will be shorter and that spending will be lower but they consider the Tourist Board’s forecasts to be too optimistic. These professionals on the Costa del Sol also believe that proximity will be a determining factor this summer, as this is important for those who decide to go on holiday at the last minute. This benefits the Costa del Sol as a destination because people know there will be no problem in making a last-minute booking because it has such a high concentration of hotel places. Summer has kicked off with a month of July which is looking better every day.
The Andalusians aren’t going far from home
Establishments in the inland areas of the province are hoping to reach occupancy levels of between 60 and 65 per cent in July, which would be similar to last year, according to Isabel Hera, the Tourism Director of Rural Andalus. However, she points out that there have been several changes in the business which are attributable to the impact of the economic crisis. For example, more people are remaining in Andalucía for their holidays, even to the extent that some from Seville, decide to go somewhere close like Huelva, or those in Malaga and Jaén choose the countryside not far from home. As well as choosing locations which are close, many people are only going for a few days. “Last July people were booking for a week, but this year they only want three or four nights”, says Isabel. There is also a greater than expected increase in last-minute bookings.
The ‘chiringuitos’ reported a good start to the month of July
July got off to a good start for the hostelry sector but it was undoubtedly the ‘chiringuito’ beach bars that received the most business, while many restaurants in Malaga city were quiet. The president of the Association of Beach Businesses of the Costa del Sol, Manuel Villafaina, says the forecast is good. “June had its ups and downs, but since the 22nd we have seen an increase in business. We’re sure that people who have apartments on the coast and those who live in Malaga city who aren’t going on holiday will make good use of the chiringuitos”, he explains. The aim of the sector is to do better than last year, but this could be a difficult challenge for owners of city centre businesses. The president of that hostelry sector, Rafael Prado, warns that businesses are beginning to suffer from the large number of establishments which now exist in the historic centre of Malaga.
3,100 more seats were available on the AVE high-speed trains
At the María Zambrano railway station in Malaga it is noticeable that July has arrived because of the increased number of passengers. To mark the first official summer weekend and the start of the peak holiday season, the Renfe railway company laid on extra trains between Madrid and the southern coast and this increased the number of seats available by an extra 3,100 on the High Speed-Long Distance services. There were also an extra 7,500 places provided by the AVE high speed services which link the cities of Malaga, Seville, Cadiz and Huelva with the Spanish capital. There were also more trains running between Madrid and the coast in western Andalucía last weekend, as so many people headed there for their holidays. For example, the ‘Alvia’ Cadiz to Madrid service had an extra 1,200 seats and the Huelva - Madrid service had 600 more.