'Luxury weekend' in Puerto Banús. SUR
Marbella is once again enjoying the limelight thanks to oodles of foreign investment, a plethora of positive press and famous faces arriving by the plane load
Since the 1960s Marbella has been regarded as a playground for the ridiculously rich, the fabulously famous and some generally well-heeled types.
You only have to cast a glance at the world famous marina of Puerto Banús and its intoxicating assortment of floating gin palaces and eye wateringly expensive sports cars to realise that there is a staggering amount of money in this small town.
Although the Golden Mile and institutions such as the Marbella Club Hotel are internationally renowned, it’s fair to say that Marbella has lost some of its sparkle since it first became a jet set destination in the 1960s.
Back then every celebrity worth his or her salt could be spotted soaking up the sun, or nursing a cocktail or two in the town’s in vogue bars and raved about restaurants.
However it seems that a recovery of sorts is under way thanks no doubt to exposure in the international media, celebrities snapping up local property and a tonne of foreign investment from nationalities such as the Russians who have the cash to splash at the moment.
In terms of celebrities for example, there have been more here in this former sleepy little fishing village this summer than you can shake a 300mm paparazzi lens at.
To name but a few, David “Golden Balls” Beckham filmed an Adidas advert on the town’s Paseo Marítimo; supermodel chums Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell holidayed in Puerto Banús and the Old Town; Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria let her hair down in numerous watering holes and even the petrol headed presenters from the BBC’s Top Gear team couldn’t keep away- filming part of a high octane episode amongst the razzmatazz and bright lights of Puerto Banús in June.
Let’s not forget that Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney bought a multi-million euro mansion here earlier this summer, after advice from his tinsel town buddy Antonio Banderas, who already owns a sizable villa on the outskirts of town.
And just weeks ago the world’s most famous celebrity couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, were rumbled while trying to discreetly view properties ahead of a suspected move to Marbella.
It’s a little known fact that Russian buyers are now the second largest group of foreign investors in Marbella after the British, having leapfrogged the Germans in recent years.
It’s also been reported that the number of tourists arriving from Russia at Spanish airports has doubled since the recession struck, from 995,000 travellers in 2008 to 2.1 million in 2012.
As a result astute locals will have noticed the increasing presence of roadside adverts that are not just in Spanish and English, but Russian too, as well as the launch of our sister paper, SUR in Russian and the construction of Spain’s largest Russian Orthodox Church in Marbella.
Louise Cook Edwards, editor of Marbellas.com, comments that an integral part of Marbella’s allure is the “see and be seen” factor, with uber cool beach clubs such as Nikki Beach attracting a hip, fashionable crowd to these shores.
“With A-list property buyers, the glitzy Russian set and the dazzling Starlite Festival, and Global Gift Gala, no wonder there is a buzz,” says Louise.
“What will make the difference long term is how easy Spain makes it for new residents and businesses to thrive and the cultural scene - which needs to be year round, and not just in summer for tourists.”
Of course a number of international events have also helped put Marbella - which means beautiful sea - back at the forefront of the fashionable places to be seen.
So far this year the town has welcomed: Marbella Fashion Week, the Marbella Luxury Weekend, The Marbella International Film Festival and the hugely successful Starlite Festival. Even the Marbella Half Marathon last Sunday helped put the town’s best foot forward by attracting a record 2,000 runners, many of them from abroad.
Certainly with the news last week that work on La Bajadilla port is expected to start in 2014, the future is looking very bright for Marbella.
The port in question is planned in the east of the town with wealthy Malaga Football Club owner Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani threatening to build the “best private port in the Mediterranean”, which would give the legendary Puerto Banús a run for its money.
And it’s grand schemes like this that are giving Marbella a promising future and raising its profile among the international community.
Michel Cruz, who owns Marbella based company Manifesto Design, adds that it’s outside investment that has helped this Costa del Sol town emerge early from the crisis in comparison with the rest of Spain, whilst regaining its prestige.
He added: “Marbella is a micro-economy, more dependent upon outside influences than national ones. The green shoots of recovery that we’re seeing are a reflection of this, and of the intrinsic appeal this region has to people from across Europe - and increasingly beyond. If we work hard to maintain high standards, keep our prices realistic and re-invest in new infrastructure and further beautification of the town, then Marbella can look forward to an exciting new era and strong growth.”
So hold on to your hats, it seems the best is yet to come for Marbella.
Why is Marbella back in vogue?
Michael Liggan of Marbella based Altavista Property told SUR in English: “Marbella perhaps lost some of its international glamour due in no small part to the previous administration in the town hall and certainly from a British perspective, the influx of footballers wives and reality TV stars.
“However, as witnessed especially this year, with the likes of Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and of course George Clooney visiting and events such as the Starlite Festival, Marbella is definitely back in vogue with Hollywood A-listers.
“Areas such as La Zagaleta offer a huge amount of privacy and security and the press here is a lot less intrusive, allowing well known celebrities to come and relax in relative peace.
“The new council are the epitome of transparency and have injected millions of euros into improving Marbella and its international image, with projects such as the boulevard from Banús to Marbella, the Bajadilla Port and the tunnel and new boulevard in San Pedro.
“Places such as St.Tropez or Ibiza come and go as the fashionable places to be. However Marbella has what it has always had, 320 days of sunshine every year, some of the most luxurious hotels and entertainment venues and of course the famous, laid back lifestyle. A different world, just two or three hours away from most European centres.
All of this is what first attracted European Royalty and Saudi Kings and is now attracting Russian multimillionaires, who are boosting the economy in much the same way the Saudi Royal family did.