The Davis Cup brings high season to Marbella early

The centre court has been refurbished and its capacity increased to 9,000.
The centre court has been refurbished and its capacity increased to 9,000. / JOSELE-LANZA
  • The tennis fixture, which starts today, promises to boost local hotels and businesses as well as promote tourism to the area

President of the Spanish Tennis Federation, Miguel Díaz, said a few weeks ago that the choice of Marbella for the first knockout round Davis Cup clash between Spain and Great Britain had the unanimous backing of the side led by Sergi Bruguera - in spite of competition from Granada. The fact that the tie could be played at sea level and on the team's favoured clay all played a big part in the decision.

However, the decision came down to a number of other factors, including the climate, the services available and Marbella's past experience of hosting the Davis Cup.

The first occasion was in 1989 when Spain took on Mexico at the Puente Romano, the venue for this week's action beginning today, Friday. The most recent was in 2009, but at the bullring in Puerto Banús when Spain faced Germany in one of the arena's last public events.

On that occasion, the tennis was worth around ten million euros to the town; this time, though, it will be difficult to reach that figure given that the match-up of nine years ago took place in July and was also a quarterfinal.

The cost to the coffers

Throughout Marbella, residents and visitors will have noticed changes including repairs to uneven walkways, spruced-up green areas, new parking spaces and bus stops, as well as British and Spanish flags lining the streets. These improvement works have set the town hall back an estimated 150,000 euros.

This is in addition to the cost of hosting the event itself for which the council had to pay a 484,000-euro fee (IVA included) to the Spanish Tennis Federation, as well as a further 536,727 euros to temporarily increase the capacity at Puente Romano.

These costs were covered in part by regional and provincial governments and the Mancomunidad of the western Costa del Sol - each supplying 150,000 euros. The town hall will also get 50 per cent of revenue from ticket sales and advertising.

Marbella mayor Ángeles Muñoz believes that this chance to host the prestigious competition is “an opportunity” to make this an atypical February in terms of hotel occupancy and profits for businesses.

Likewise, Luis Callejón, president of the Association of Hoteliers (AEHCOS), said: “Without doubt we need an event of this scale every month on the Costa del Sol to combat seasonality. It's important to have cultural or sporting events to ensure that the town is full all year round.”

Early figures suggest that hotels in the town expect to be 70 per cent full, with high occupancy especially in four and five-star hotels and those offering packages including tickets.

An affinity with the Costa

President of the Centre for Touristic Initiatives (CIT Marbella), Juan José González, is optimistic that businesses will do increased trade: “We now have a great chance to promote the Marbella brand,” he said, explaining that with the matches almost certainly attracting scores of British fans, it was also an opportunity to increase loyalty among the Costa's most frequent visitors.

The British are certainly taking this seriously. The Spanish Tennis Federation have confirmed that the matches will be broadcast live on the BBC and that the Lawn Tennis Association would be sending “high-level representation”.

What's more, the British royal family will be present in the form of the Duchess of Gloucester, according to SUR sources.

An influx of people

This weekend's matches are expected to be a sell-out with just a few hundred tickets still available going into the final week.

With centre court at Puente Romano being expanded to accommodate 9,000 spectators, tickets for some 8,500 seats (whether for the whole tournament or individual days) went on sale to the general public with the remaining 500 going to the Federation.

To this total, you also have to add the between 800 and 1,000 people involved in organisation, the coaches and technicians behind the competing teams, as well as the 300 accredited journalists from 50 countries.

Thanks to initiatives launched by the town hall, many more people have been flooding into Marbella to participate in a number of tennis-related events at various points around the town. “We want everyone to feel a part of the Davis Cup, especially off the court,” said mayor Ángeles Muñoz.

Ease of access

With 1,400 new parking spaces around the Golden Mile and 25 free buses laid on to ferry ticketholders to Puente Romano every 15 minutes from both Marbella and San Pedro, it is hoped that the town will show to the watching outside world that it is capable of hosting further large-scale events like this in the future.

Now, the rest is up to players on the court.