Torremolinos has undergone an extensive transformation over the last 12 months and the new-look boulevard and central plaza are now complete and will be officially inaugurated on Thursday 14 February. The town hall has pulled out all the stops to secure Torremolinos as a leading tourist destination, while also recognising the significant role that the British community has played in the history of the town.
Mayor of Torremolinos, José Ortiz, who claims a "true revolution awaits", told SUR in English about his vision for the town and the part the British community will play in its future.
Are you from Torremolinos?
I was born in Madrid but my roots are in Torremolinos. My mother’s family is from here and my grandfather’s house, which I visited as a child, was situated near the Pimentel tower.
In your opinion, why is Torremolinos different to other coastal towns?
Torremolinos was the pioneer of tourism in the 1960s. Then, with the boom of the Costa del Sol, Torremolinos was the first municipality to initiate the expansion of international tourism. It became a city of art and modernity, which facilitated the international projection. If there was a modern town, it was Torremolinos. It was an island of freedom. And thanks to all of those values, we have succeeded in having a relevance that makes us a top tourist destination in Andalucía.
So you believe that Torremolinos can become a leading tourist destination?
We are already a leading tourist destination. We ended 2018 with more than five million overnight stays. These are the best figures for a decade, surpassing one million tourists. Torremolinos has an attractive heritage that sets it apart from other resorts. We have already achieved the first blue flag and the Q of quality for our beaches, although we can offer much more than just sun and the beach.
Torremolinos has changed very much since you became mayor; what is your vision for the future of the town?
We will continue with the renovation of Torremolinos. In four years, we have been able to appreciate how the cultural revitalisation of the town has changed the image and the ambience of the town centre. We wanted to recover certain areas for pedestrians, such as the Plaza Costa del Sol, a square that combines modernity with elements of heritage and history. It is the beginning of the revolution for our town. Above all, we will work for the quality of life of the residents in order to make our town a pleasant place to live and visit.
There is a large expatriate population living in Torremolinos, especially the British: are they important for the future of the town?
Yes, of course. The British community is the largest and they make up 12 per cent of the residents of European origin. Obviously the situation with Brexit is worrying, but we want to assure them that we are here to provide help and information. We hope there is a sensible solution and we will do our best to ensure that they can continue living in Torremolinos without any problems.
How good is your English?
I have a limited standard of English, although this is a pending issue that I would like to improve.
Does the town hall encourage foreign residents to integrate into society?
Yes. We have campaigned so that all foreign residents can register to vote in local elections. We want to involve them more, not only in the cultural events like the Foreign Residents Day, but so they can also help to decide the future of Torremolinos by having their own voice.
Why have you decided to present the British community with the Torremolinos Medal of Honour?
We proposed it because the British have been visiting our town for the last 50 years. They represent 20 per cent of European tourism and we have enjoyed a long association with those who have chosen Torremolinos as their home. This is a strong commitment to our town and they have helped with our economy, not only through tourism, but also because many British people have opened businesses in the town.
There are many British residents who fear their statutory rights will change if the UK leaves the EU. Can you offer some words of reassurance to those residents?
We are in direct contact with the government and with other municipalities who, like us, have many British residents . We are confident that an agreement will be reached that will allow them to continue living in the town without change, and we hope that the British will continue to choose our town as their preferred holiday destination.