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Beach businesses say jellyfish have disrupted their summer

Red flag flies to warn of jellyfish swarms.
Red flag flies to warn of jellyfish swarms. / SUR
  • Tourism organisations are calling for authorities to join forces to examine the situation, which has scared some tourists from the beaches this year

The owners of beach-based attractions are counting their losses this summer after plagues of jellyfish have disrupted business.

As well as being an inconvenience for bathers wanting to take a dip, the swarms of jellyfish brought in with the sea currents have been disastrous for businesses such as floating water parks, inflatable rides and paddle surf rentals.

“This year has been terrible. The worst we can remember,” said Laureano García, the owner of Waterfun, which has inflatable parks in Malaga, Torre del Mar and San Pedro Alcántara.

“Just at the one on La Malagueta [Malaga], so far this summer we’ve had to close for 15 whole days and shorten the opening hours on ten other days because at times the water has been packed with jellyfish,” he added.

The licences for these water attractions only run from 15 June to 15 September and so the losses are significant: from an average of 150 clients in one day to zero.

“We contacted the Environment Department at the Junta to study the viability of putting up nest around the park, but they didn’t give us the go-ahead, so we just depend on the sea currents,” said García.

The situation is similar for popular activities such as kayaking or paddle surf.

“A lot of groups who had booked a trip are cancelling. Many other call before they come to ask, and if there are [jellyfish] they don’t come,” said an employee of Educare Aventuras, an active tourism firm that offers kayak excursions, paddle surf and scuba diving near the Maro cliffs.

Only time will tell whether the jellyfish have come to stay or whether this year’s visitors are just part of a cycle (the last plague was in 2012), but business owners are concerned that the alteration of the ecosystem is prolonging their stay.

“It’s a matter we’ll have to take much more seriously than this summer. I don’t know whether it’s caught the authorities unawares, but we have to take measures because it’s affecting the image of the Costa del Sol,” said the president of the Tourism Council at the Andalusian Business Confederation (CEA), Miguel Sánchez. The organisation, whose members are hoteliers, travel agents and tour operators, will be seeking meetings with central, regional and local authorities to tackle “the problem” in a coordinated manner.

Sánchez, who owns MS Hoteles, added that this year his hotels have received calls from regular clients asking about jellyfish before making their reservation.

“There are people who are very apprehensive and won’t go on holiday if they think there could be a problem,” he added.