Brazilian businessman Marcos Torres, in one of the houses. :: J-Lanza
He says the historic centre of Marbella is still the most unknown tourist attraction of the town. It is now several decades since Brazilian businessman Marcos Torres first set eyes on the peaceful streets of the heart of Marbella's 'Casco Histórico', the Old Town, which in his opinion is “the best place to find the essence of Spain, the most deep-rooted customs and the traditional ways of life of this country”. That is why, after travelling around half the world working for different companies in the tourism sector, he ended up in Marbella. At first, he worked at the Hotel Don Miguel, but some time later he became an occasional visitor to the town. “We began by buying an apartment. Then came the idea of opening a small boutique hotel, using the Bed & Breakfast format we had seen in other countries."
For this business venture, which began in 2004, he decided on the upper part of the Old Town in Marbella. “It would only make sense here, in this place of white streets, traditional houses and where all you can hear at any time of day is the birds singing”, he says proudly. So he spared no effort in finding the ‘ideal house’ to begin his project. It was a 130 square metre property in Calle Príncipe, which he transformed into a hotel with four bedrooms. Eight years later, this businessman has now restored a total of seven houses, all of which form part of his unusual B&B hotel project.
When asked how much he has invested in this venture, he takes several minutes to do the sums, between the purchase of the buildings, their restoration and decoration. In total, 3.5 million euros, although this figure could continue to grow in the next few years. He is still adding the final touches to the last house he acquired, a 240 square metre property in Calle Lobatos, but he is already considering others which could be incorporated into his hotel, La Villa Marbella.
British and Americans
Marcos makes it clear that although these are new projects, he does not intend to abandon the formula which for the moment continues to attract the attention of, mainly, British and Americans. “We are better known by foreigners than by the Spanish, fundamentally because the foreigners prefer a different type of holiday in Marbella, something more than sunshine and beaches. They like the traditional aspect” he explains. This is why his next purchases will only be of houses in a few streets in the historic town centre of Marbella. “This ancient district is a town in itself”, he says. He is proud of the fact that one of the things which his guests appreciate most is that “they say that in these streets they find the real Spain and its customs”. And they are right. The knife sharpener and melon vendors that pass through the streets, shouting to announce their presence and the products and services they provide, are a real attraction for visitors. “The clients adore this, they lose no time in coming out with their cameras to take a photo”, he laughs.
The streets called Lobatas, Príncipe, Chorrón, Caballeros and Princesa have changed their appearance for the better in just a few years and this is largely due to the restorations which are being carried out by Marcos Torres. The director of the Centro district, Baldomero León, has words of praise for his work: “He has restored houses that are between 100 and 200 years old, many of which were in a terrible state of repair, and now they look impeccable”, he explains.
In his efforts to maintain the image of the traditional houses and the old customs, Marcos Torres has been especially scrupulous in retaining the details which speak for themselves about another era and the Marbella of 200 years ago. “From the start, I was determined that the houses should keep their exterior appearance, even if the interiors are more innovative in terms of design and technology”, he stresses.
Like Marcos, other small investors have seen a business opportunity in the old part of Marbella. 90 per cent of the major works which are being carried out at present are building restorations, most of them by foreigners. For the local council, this is evidence of the attraction of the Old Town and the confidence that investors have in Marbella.