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THE BOTTOM LINE

Despite the beaches

Marbella was the setting recently for the launch of the regional government's Safe Beaches Plan, in which it is investing 35 million euros. Never before have our beaches played such an important role at the start of a tourist season.

Of course, it is true that this is not a normal season by any means. The pandemic has obliged the authorities to put strict safety measures into effect so potential visitors can be reassured that if they come here on holiday they will be safe. Or at least as safe as they can be in their own countries, or the cities in which they live. Perhaps even a bit safer.

It is precisely this exceptional situation that has focused all eyes on our beaches and obliged us to really think seriously about them for once.

Our destination is, above all, about sunshine and beaches, although that is something we tend to forget too often. Because if we are honest, we have to admit that the Costa del Sol is not actually a tourist destination par excellence because of its beaches, but rather despite what its beaches are like.

Our excellence can be found in our remarkable variety of hotels, our gastronomy and restaurants, the communications (despite the lack of a local train), the airport, the high-speed AVE rail service, the golf, the security, the healthcare which is available to everybody, the options for leisure and recreational activities, services of just about every type, our historical heritage, our countryside, but not our beaches.

This isn't how things ought to be, but it is how they are. The sea water off beaches in this province is often affected by layers of scum, there have been invasive town planning measures and chronic delays in building functioning sewage treatment plants, and there are algae and jellyfish, wooden beams and cement, whose owners seem to have forgotten that only structures which can be dismantled are supposed to be built on the sand...

Nevertheless, the challenge caused by the pandemic has served to remind us that our beaches are essential, because if people can't go to the beach the rest isn't really of much use.

We really need to keep that in mind, when all this is finally over.