Costa del Sol deserted at traditional start of peak season

Departure boards at Malaga Airport were almost completely empty.
Departure boards at Malaga Airport were almost completely empty. / ÑITO SALAS
  • Authorities are launching promotional campaigns to attract tourists back after coronavirus lockdown ends

  • There were just ten flights in and out of Malaga Airport on Monday, the traditional start of the tourism sector's busiest period

Putting the clocks forward normally signals the start of the high tourist season on the Costa del Sol. However, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Malaga Airport was almost completely deserted on Monday, with just six flights coming in and four going out - all of which were specially-chartered flights returning Spanish nationals home or repatriating the last foreigners still in the area on their holidays.

This was in stark contrast to the same time last year when Malaga Airport had fifty airlines connecting 133 destinations on 235 routes, 22 of which were new.

As for when we can see a return to normality, there is no news yet - only concern for the industry in both the short and long term. Ryanair, the largest airline by passenger numbers in Malaga, has suspended flights until June, while the new routes recently announced to Doha, Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv could also be in jeopardy.

The Andalusian regional vice president and regional minister for Tourism, Juan Marín, this week presented a new forecast report. This worst-case scenario, it said, would see the loss from tourism come in at 13.3 billion euros (compared to six billion mentioned in the first study released). It also points to the loss of 137,000 jobs in the industry that is the driving force of the local economy.

"The most negative scenario proposes a recovery of both the national and international market at the same rate as after the SARS episode in 2003. Using this model, we would see 14 million tourists arriving in 2020 - 18.4 million less than in 2019, down almost 60 per cent," said Marín.

Promotional campaigns

Marín's message to the industry, however, is that the sector will recover, and that it is important to be ready when it does.

To that end, the Junta launched a new promotional video with the message: "Andalucía wants you to stay at home [...] but we'll share our happiness and passion with the whole world again soon."

Similarly, Turismo Costa del Sol is looking at new strategies to attract visitors once travel restrictions are lifted. These include advertising campaigns within Spain, specifically elsewhere in Andalucía, but also in Extremadura and Castilla la Mancha because of their high-speed train connections.