Hotels are offering discounts again as July bookings are lower than expected

Tourists and locals enjoying time on the beach this week.
Tourists and locals enjoying time on the beach this week. / GERMÁN POZO
  • The number of last-minute bookings on the Costa has been disappointing, and hotels everywhere are vying to attract visitors from other parts of Spain

In different areas and at different meetings, the managers of hotels on the Costa del Sol, whether large resorts, luxury or traditional establishments, have all agreed that the first half of July has been quieter than expected.

At the end of June the tourism industry was predicting that this summer would be better than last year and occupancy levels could even match those of 2017, but it hasn't happened. The hotels thought there would be a rush of last-minute bookings and there were some, but fewer than expected. In fact, some hotels became so nervous that they decided to make special offers, something which has not occurred in the past three years.

In general hotels don't like having to make special offers to attract business, but at least it has put an end to the price increases which had marked previous summer seasons.

The president of the Aehcos hotels association, Luis Callejón Suñé, doesn't mince his words: "the forecasts for July have disinflated. Spanish tourism is saving the situation, because visitors from other parts of Spain are compensating for the drop in those from Britain and Germany, but these clients tend to book at the last minute and that has led some hotels to resort to offers, something they haven't done for a number of years. Not many have done that, but it is happening," he says.

Along the same lines, the president of the CEA (business confederation of Andalucía) tourism committee, Miguel Sánchez, says that "what has happened is that in general the last-minute bookings that hotels were relying on were lower than expected. In cities like Malaga it is different. We are seeing a clear gap between beach and city tourism".

As an example, he points to the fact that on the Costa del Sol, unlike recent years, the hotels have even had vacancies at weekends in July. Since 2017, demand for weekend bookings had increased so much that some hotels had begun to insist on a four-night minimum stay. However, Sánchez does point out that reservations for August, the busiest month of the year, are looking more positive.

Another factor which has affected those positive forecasts which were made at the end of June is that hotels in the Canary Islands and Balearics have embarked upon a quite aggressive campaign of offers to attract more visitors, because of competition from other destinations such as Turkey, Greece and Egypt. These rivals are having an even greater effect on the islands than on the Costa del Sol. The bargain offers are aimed at attracting Spanish tourists, many of whom might otherwise have gone to the Malaga coast.

"All destinations in Spain are trying harder than ever before to attract Spanish tourists and that is being felt on the Costa," says Miguel Sánchez.

The 'chiringuito' beach restaurants are also noticing a difference. The president of the Costa beach businesses association, Manuel Villafaina, says there have been fewer tourists in the first half of July but he believes things will pick up and in the end the summer will be similar to last year.

On the other hand, self-catering holiday rentals are going as well as expected and should end July with a 75 per cent occupancy rate. The president of the Andalusian tourism properties association, Carlos Pérez-Lanzac, says business in this sector is developing normally, mainly because the clients tend to be families who plan their stays well in advance. "We don't have as many last-minute bookings," he says.

Another statistic which has had an impact so far this month is that the average length of stay is shorter. The sector believes tourists are opting for several short holidays a year instead of one long break, and this may also explain the increased bookings out-of-season.

In addition the high temperatures in the principal source markets of Europe have resulted in tourists from Britain and Germany, for example, deciding to holiday at home this summer instead of travelling abroad.