There's a fun game you can play if you ever get bored in Malaga city centre these days - it's called 'Spot The Malagueño.' A gentle stroll along the main streets and thoroughfares of this wonderful town will bring you into contact with a veritable united nations of visitors and inhabitants from around world, while the natives themselves are becoming ever thinner on the ground.
The greedy rush to convert all available accommodation into tourist apartments has meant that there are scarcely any long term rentals left in the city centre and that the few that still remain are exorbitantly expensive. Since travelling became the new religion and the race to post pictures of ourselves on social media next to things became an international obsession, this phenomenon has affected more and more towns and cities throughout the world and, sadly, it feels anything but healthy.
So, what's to be done about it?
Well, introducing fire, safety and disabled access regulations - similar to those that hotels must comply with - to the tourist apartment industry would help a little, I think. Maybe flat owners would think twice about boarding a speeding gravy train if the initial adaptation costs were quite expensive. As things stand, you can simply turf your long term tenants out on some dodgy pretext, buy a few bits and bobs from IKEA, register your gaff as a tourist apartment, stick it on the internet and wait for the money to roll in. Easy.
Interestingly, four people I know who having been coming to Malaga annually for many years all, independently, made the same comment to me this summer - that they won't be coming back because the city has lost its authenticity. I'm afraid to say they have a point and if four people actually say it, how many others are thinking the same?
Down at The Shakespeare, we're doing our best to support the Malagueños and their culture with music and poetry evenings and a space for local art and photography exhibitions but the truth is it's a labour of love rather than a brilliant business plan. There's a lot more money to be made feeding and watering tourists but at what cost in the long term? We'll stick to our guns and see what happens but, for now, we're very proud to say that on a typical evening we have a healthy fifty-fifty mix of Spanish and English-speaking customers. Long may it continue.
In the meantime, let's hope that the authorities take the kind if measures which will make Spot The Malagueño just a little bit easier to play over the next couple of years.