Costa del Sol hoteliers rounded off an excellent year for business in 2016 with record high occupancies over the New Year's Eve weekend.
Hotels across Malaga province were expecting to be 88 percent full, an increase of five points on 2015. The coastal beach resorts, such as Marbella and Fuengirola, were reported to be three quarters full, while in Malaga city and most inland hotels there were virtually no vacancies.
"This year we saw 15 to 20 per cent more bookings for Christmas Eve and we were full right over New Year," said Francisco Moro, manager of the MS Maestranza hotel near Malaga's bullring.
At the AC Málaga Palacio hotel, where guests were queuing to check in at reception, bosses reported that the New Year's Eve gala had sold out over a month ago .
In Torremolinos, the Melia Costa del Sol reported 90 per cent occupancy, an increase on last year.
It was the same story in inland Malaga province, where there was little availability over the holiday week. According to Isabel Heras of booking website Rural Andalus, 95 per cent of country properties to rent were reserved.
Marbella's quieter period
Along with the rest of the beach resorts on the coast, Marbella traditionally has one of its quietest months of the year in December. Not even the public holidays at the start of the month attract many visitors to the resort.
However, New Year's Eve was the exception to this rule as usual, as hotels put up the 'no vacancies' sign and laid on gala dinners for guests, many of which were sold out weeks in advance.
Over half the guests staying in the resort's luxury hotels over the weekend were foreign. In the Vincci Estrella del Mar, guests from 18 countries had checked in. Besides the usual nationalities to visit the coast, such as Germans and British, staff reported guests from South America, Africa, the Middle East as well as the former Soviet republics.
Guests opting to reserve the mouthwatering gala meals were faced with equally eye-watering prices across Marbella and the surrounding area. First prize for luxury dining went to the Marbella Club where the fixed price menu and open bar on New Year's Eve had a price tag of 620 euros per person.
Crowds flock to the shops
Store bosses have also been reporting their strongest Christmas sales since the start of the financial crisis some nine years ago.
The full impact of this year's seasonal spending spree still isn't known, as the peak Christmas shopping period continued right up to yesterday evening, ahead of the visit of the Three Wise Men last night with their presents for children.
However, up to the end of last week, stores were predicting a five per cent increase on last year, which would take sales back to their 2007 levels. Some retail businesses are expecting the increase to reach 15%.
Although the January sales traditionally don't start until after the Three Kings public holiday, some prices were slashed early this week to attract more buyers, with a few shops offering discounts of up to 70 per cent.
The Malaga Federation of Retailers, (Federacíon del Comercio de Málaga), told Sur that business owners were "very happy going into the busiest days of the year".
In Marbella, general manager of La Cañada shopping centre Javier Moreno, summed up the mood at the tills. "The shops are full; you can see there's a lot more happiness when people are buying," he explained, adding that "people in Spain always leave their shopping to the last minute" ahead of the present-giving holiday on 6 January.
There were long queues on the roads leading to shopping centres yesterday. In Malaga there were two kilometres of tailbacks on the A7 in both directions with so many people trying to get into the Plaza Mayor shopping centre.
In Fuengirola, Parque Miramar also reported larger than expected crowds. "We're getting a lot of visitors and the shops in the centre are very happy with the level of sales as we're having a successful Christmas," said Raquel Llamas, head of marketing.