March 28th marked the fifth anniversary of the official opening of the Caminito del Rey after its restoration by the Malaga provincial government, in collaboration with the Junta de Andalucía and councils in the area. During those five years it has become a major tourist attraction and the authorities have received huge support for an application for it to be classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Although at present the Caminito is closed because of the lockdown in Spain, the latest visitor figures are impressive. The study shows that 1.5 million tourists, about 300,000 a year, have walked the 1,500 metre pathway 100 metres above the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes gorge, which is the most impressive part of the 7.7 kilometre route. Its name means 'King's Path' and refers to Alfonso XIII, who visited the original walkway when he came to open the Conde del Guadalhorce reservoir in 1921.
According to the study, 40 per cent of those who have visited the Caminito del Rey are Spanish and live in other regions of the country, one in three are foreigners and the others are from Andalucía, although strangely enough only 10 per cent of them are from Malaga province.
The figures show that slightly more men than women have done the Caminito, about four per cent more, and the average age of visitors was 41.3. One third of all those who have visited the Caminito del Rey were aged between 30 and 59. The oldest visitor was Manuel Crespo Hoyo, who did it in January 2019, aged 94.
As well as walking the Caminito del Rey, many of the visitors take the opportunity to explore some of the nearby villages and towns (Ardales, Carratraca, Álora, Valle de Abdalajís, Campillos and Antequera), all of which have places of interest, monuments and facilities for active and nature tourism.
The Caminito has really boosted tourism and the local economy in this rural part of Malaga province. The study shows that the number of hotels and self-catering establishments has grown by 126 per cent since 2016, from 210 to 474.
Last year the visitors (those who stayed in the area and day trippers) spent 26.7 million euros, according to the study carried out by the provincial government. Direct and indirect production amounted to 44.3 million euros and 533 jobs were generated, of which 57 per cent were direct.
Proposals and famous names
During its five years of existence, the restored Caminito del Rey has been the setting for several proposals of marriage and has also attracted some famous names among the visitors, including actors, singers, athletes, politicians and even some Arab sheikhs. Some, like Antonio Banderas and Vanessa Martín, were happy to be photographed, while others preferred to be more discreet.
The new concession to run the Caminito del Rey, which is currently managed by the Hermanos Campano-Bobastro 2000 company, is in the process of being negotiated. The terms include a concession period of five years, a limit on ticket prices of 12 euros (it is currently ten euros for individuals, and 18 for a guided tour), and the number of visitors may be gradually increased each year to a maximum of 1,500 a day in the final two years of the concession. The company which wins the contract will also be in charge of the new visitor reception centre and the car park, and have to pay a minimum fee of 100,000 euros.