surinenglish

Wheelie wheelie worrying

The city of Malaga’s exponential growth as a tourist destination continues unabated. The number of wheelie suitcases being trundled around town at any given moment is quite astonishing, although not nearly as astonishing as the minuscule size of some of them. The frequent urge to yell “Pick it up and carry it, lazy bones!” is strong but, being a mild-mannered sort of chap, I continue to resist.

Anyway, what’s clear is that mass tourism in the city is only going to expand over the coming years, so we’d better get used to it. There can be no doubt that the injection of vast quantities of tourist money is more than welcome in an area which is still suffering the full effects of the financial crisis - whatever the politicians say - and where unemployment is still sky high, especially among the young. Increased city tourism, then, must be seen as a good thing.

Unfortunately, as with many good things, there is a down side. We’ll leave for another occasion the extent to which Malaga is rapidly losing its authenticity, in order to concentrate here on a much more practical issue: the scarcity of living accommodation for residents in the city centre. Actually, flats and apartments for long term rent are not merely scarce, they’re almost nonexistent.

This is because property owners can, as things stand, earn three times as much by renting to The Wheelie Suitcase Gang than they can by offering accommodation to a local couple or family. There’s something quite disturbing about this state of affairs. I’ve heard more than one tale of long term tenants being forced to abandon their home by dint of a sudden price hike, leaving the way clear for the unscrupulous owners in question to rent the premises to tourists. Plainly, this isn’t a healthy path forward but, as is often the case, solutions are difficult to identify. One proposal that may have some effect on the current state of affairs is the idea of a series of strict regulations for holiday apartments, similar to those currently demanded of hotels (fire doors, sprinklers, smoke alarms, access for the disabled, etc.). These measures might go some way to discouraging every Tom, Dick and Paco from jumping on the bandwagon and, as a consequence, leave a fairer proportion of accommodation available for locals to rent.

What’s clearly not viable is to have swathes of tourists wandering around the city, being served and waited upon in Malaga’s vast array of shops and hostelries by workers who’ve had to commute for half an hour to get into town - it’s a conundrum which needs addressing sharpish. Answers on a postcard,please, to ‘Paco de la Torre -City Hall, Malaga.’