Junta president Juanma Moreno was present at the WTM. / SALVADOR SALAS

Costa del Sol confident British tourists will flood back to a 'shuttle service' destination

Tourism authorities and professionals from Andalucía and the Costa came away from the WTM in London optimistic about 2023

PILAR MARTÍNEZ LONDON.

People in the UK are prepared to give up their gym membership, forgo meals out and buy fewer clothes in order to save money in these uncertain times, but they are reluctant to give up their holidays. This is according to Mark Tanzer, executive director of ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, speaking at the World Travel Market in London's ExCel centre this week.

This is excellent news for Andalucía and the Costa del Sol and it reinforces the message that the large delegation from the south of Spain has brought away from the British capital this week.

"Our expectations are good, despite the complicated macroeconomic scenario in Europe in general," remarked the Junta de Andalucía's minister for Tourism, Arturo Bernal, who held numerous meetings with professionals and associations over the three days of the travel fair that ended on Wednesday.

Opening the 550-square-metre space devoted to Andalucía at the fair, Andalusian president Juanma Moreno said the region is taking giant steps to become a world leader for tourism.

"We are optimistic, despite the uncertainties and political and economic variables in the UK," he said, stressing the importance of visitors from Britain for the region.

This message was common among all of the region's representatives in London this week. The Costa del Sol tourism authority delegation was headed by president Francisco Salado, as well as the mayors of several local tourist destinations, including Malaga, Torremolinos, Marbella, Benalmádena, Mijas, Nerja and Torrox.

Well aware of the need to ensure that British people planning their holidays will still consider the south of Spain as their first choice, the Costa del Sol has announced a major promotion campaign for next year, costing 1.5 million euros.

Promotion campaigns

Francisco Salado explained in London on Monday that during 2023, around 20 events will be organised in conjunction with social media campaigns and familiarisation trips for British travel agents and journalists.

The tourist board will be working closely with the Junta de Andalucía on these activities, he said. As well as highlighting golf, there will be a special focus on sustainability, conference facilities and luxury tourism.

Salado also explained that the aim is to increase the amount of money spent by British tourists during their visit to the Costa del Sol and to encourage them to stay longer.

"Figures show that spending and length of stay both increased during the first eight months of this year, compared with 2019, and that is the challenge we have set ourselves," he said.

During that time the average amount spent by tourists from the UK was 1,157 euros, which was an increase of 15.5%. They also stayed for an average of 7.5 days, which was 2% longer than three years previously.

Digital nomads

There was much mention this week in London of how the south of Spain is attracting new types of tourists who spend longer in a destination than the average holidaymaker. This target market includes remote-working professionals now dubbed "digital nomads", as well as so-called "energy nomads", those looking to spend the coldest weeks of the year in warmer climes where energy costs are lower.

The Andalucía delegation in London was also well aware that more traditional British tourists are loyal to a destination that can provide them with holiday staples such as sunshine, beaches and golf in an environment that has become familiar to them.

"At times of uncertainty people prefer places they know and which are safe, and Andalucía is in that position," said Juanma Moreno.

Well-connected

And what backs up all these arguments put forward this week in London is that the Costa del Sol is so easy to get to from the UK. Connections by air are so good that they can be considered a "shuttle service", British operators agreed at the WTM

Figures from Spain's Aena airport authority show that travellers from the UK account for 30% of all those who use Malaga Airport. Even in low season there can be as many as 90 flights a day to or from the UK, and around 40 of them connect Malaga with London.