La Cala Resort announced last week that a new manager had taken over the leisure and golf resort. Sean Corte Real, a former professional golf player of Portuguese and British origin, has taken on the role with the aim of bringing an international dimension to La Cala Resort. He will also be overseeing a new phase of collaboration with the British company Taylor Wimpey. Both firms announced several weeks ago that they would invest around 200 million euros in a variety of local projects.
Why have they chosen you to manage a resort that is thirty years old?
Well, managing this type of hotel is something that I've been doing my whole life. I've been lucky enough to work in quite a few different countries: the United States, Portugal, Brazil, Spain ... this is what I've always lived for, managing tourist complexes.
Is your appointment related to La Cala's new partnership with Taylor Wimpey?
To a great extent yes. What has changed is the type of client who is using the facilities of La Cala. Many of our clients now come from a different type of market. They're looking for a different type of service, and we have to adapt to what they want.
Do your clients typically buy houses to live here or as an investment?
Anyone who buys a house on the Costa del Sol is just as likely to want to live in it as they are to use it as a holiday home. There are a lot of clients who want to live here; but many of them are only looking to buy a second home and come during the holidays. But there are also people who buy their house as an investment for the future. The people who bought houses here some years ago came exclusively to play golf and the majority were British. Now, there is still an important number of British clients, but also other nationalities. There are many people from central Europe, who come here to retire or spend long periods of time. Buyers now tend to be more demanding, have a higher purchasing power and are looking for peace and quiet. As well as the golf course they want good service, good food, a good spa. And of course they want to be near the Costa del Sol and the beach. This is why we're becoming even more demanding. The most important thing is the experience they have here, whether they're a golf player, a client at the hotel, or if they've just come for dinner.
You've said that there are more visitors from other countries. Do people from different countries have different requirements?
Yes it changes quite a lot. British clients want different things from Scandinavian clients. We have conducted research on what different nationalities tend to prefer. For example, a Belgian customer wants more refined food. A Nordic client wants to play a lot of golf; they want to be in the sun all day. For German customers, price is the most important factor.
You've worked in several countries. What has the Costa del Sol got that allows it to compete with other destinations?
To start with it has the sea and beaches; the food, which is spectacular as are the surroundings. It also has excellent golf courses. You have to admit that the Costa del Sol has absolutely everything. I've always felt that it's like a very large, elongated city. From Mijas you're not far from skiing in Granada, visiting Seville or Cordoba, and you're only two and a half hours from Madrid by train. You can't say that of many destinations, and that's coming from someone who's lived in many parts of the world. I feel like everything is close by and I don't lack anything.
Brexit won't affect us
I have to ask you a question that we've been repeating for two years. With so many British clients, are you not worried about Brexit?
In our housing market British clients are no longer the main clients. International politics could produce situations to worry us every day. But we can't stop, we have to continue. With Brexit, we've seen that the most worrying time was the day after the vote. From then on things have improved. The British will keep coming to the Costa del Sol; that's not going to change.
Do you think that more golf courses would make the Costa del Sol a stronger destination?
That's a good question. The more golf courses there are, the more potential a resort has and the stronger it is. But it's also true that here on the Costa del Sol we have more than 100 golf courses, so I don't know up to what point there is a market for more. Our competition right now is Portugal, Egypt, Morocco ... It's hard to say if the answer is yes; perhaps we have arrived at a point where more golf courses aren't necessary. It would be ideal if the hotels were open all year and didn't close during the golf season. There are hotels that don't risk opening their doors in February or March, and this means that during that time there are fewer hotels, so the remaining ones become more expensive. During those months there is a demand for golf, but we don't need more courses, we need the hotels to stay open in the low season. In the past we've had to turn away big groups of golfers because there weren't enough hotels open locally.
How do you convince a hotel owner to stay open during low season?
It needs looking at carefully but there is business to be had on the Costa del Sol all year round.