The bubble deflates

We've reached the point where we can stop using the word 'record' in every headline. The minus sign has appeared in front of the most important tourism statistics on the Costa del Sol at the height of summer, after three consecutive years of record-breaking figures and unusual growth for such a well-established tourist area.

The first decline in tourism on the Costa del Sol since the financial crisis confirms that the vigorous upturn over the last few years was just part of a bubble that is starting to deflate. It could end up as nothing, something or everything, time will tell, depending on how well this destination has done in building customer loyalty.

It seems that we have passed the first test, however, as the Costa del Sol is in a better position than the rest of Spain's tourist areas, also affected by the fall in international visitors which is a direct consequence of the recovery of competitors such as Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt. In other words, a significant proportion of those who came on loan from rival destintions are stillchoosing the Costa del Sol - for the time being.

However the situation could have been worse had the tourism industry on the Costa del Sol not won back its Spanish tourists, who in recent years had turned their backs on this area because of its rising prices and the shortage of rooms due to the great demand from foreign visitors.

This new period, although it comes marked by negative figures, must be understood as a turning point which forces business owners and the different authorities to realise that the times call for new strategies in sales and marketing.

What we mustn't do is fall into the trap of defeatism, or depression, but neither must we attempt to disguise the situation.

The Costa has started to slow down and must put its foot on the accelerator to get back on track as soon as possible.