The sailing industry is booming in Andalucia. / JOSELE

Costa del Sol marinas fill up as sailing industry booms

Leisure ports are recording good figures this summer and expect berth occupancy to be equal to or better than last year, reflecting an increasing interest in all things nautical among visitors of many nationalities

ANDREA JIMÉNEZ

The nautical sector in Andalucía, and on the Costa del Sol in particular, is gaining strength thanks to the increasing popularity of sailing. At a time of international uncertainty, berth occupancy is expected to be equal or better than in 2021 this year, and in some cases that means that some marinas will be 100 per cent full. This reflects the growing interest in maritime leisure activities that was sparked after the coronavirus lockdown, when it was seen as a safe way to spend leisure time outdoors.

According to the annual report on the yacht market in 2021 from Spain's National Association of Nautical Businesses (ANEN), the market ended last year with its best figures since 2008, before the massive economic crisis. They show that 7,178 yachts were registered last year, which was 17 per cent more than in 2019 and 33 per cent higher than in 2020.

"We have come out of the Covid crisis stronger; people have realised that sailing is a healthy thing to do. Now the challenge is to retain the loyalty of these new customers, and from the figures so far it looks as if we are succeeding," Manuel Jiménez, the president of Marinas de Andalucía and manager of the marina in Benalmádena told SUR. He also said the growing interest is reflected in the number of people taking sailing courses: 95,000 more registered for these in 2021.

With a 25 per cent growth in yacht registrations for commercial use compared with 2019, the charter market is also doing well. Last year 1,992 yachts were registered for charter, and Andalucía showed the highest market share (21.6%), with registrations increasing by 33 per cent compared with 2019 and 28.8 per cent compared with 2020.

The figures in 2021 were positive, but this year the situation could be different due to international uncertainty. According to ANEN, leisure yacht registrations were about nine per cent lower in Spain at the start of the season than they were at the same time last year. In Malaga province however, registrations had gone up by 16.67 per cent and it has the greatest market share in Andalucía (7.19%).

The rental market is still doing well, though, and has seen a growth of 16 per cent. "Charter companies are reporting positive figures; hiring a yacht with or without a captain is becoming very popular," said Jiménez, who still believes the prospects for this summer are good. "At the moment occupancy levels are around 75 per cent in general, and some marinas will be full this summer," he said.

Marinas de Andalucía runs 16 ports in the region, of which eight are in Malaga province. Of the 8,000 berths in total, about 3,700 are in marinas on the Costa del Sol.

Waiting list

Jiménez also explained that three quarters of visitors to these ports are Spanish. Among foreign visitors, the British are the biggest group, although in recent years there have been more French visitors because of travel restrictions. "German and Scandinavian clients are also important," he said.

That is also the case with Puerto Banús, where sources said they were expecting a "very positive" summer season with a large number of bookings and there is even a waiting list for berths of certain sizes.

Those most interested in this iconic Marbella marina so far have been British and German visitors, together with others from Sweden, Finland, Norway and the Middle East. There have been more bookings from Americans for this summer, and the Spanish market continues to be buoyant.

Marinas del Mediterráneo is another group which operates marinas in Malaga province, namely Estepona and La Duquesa (Manilva).

CEO Manuel Raigón said occupancy levels so far this year have been similar to last year, and expectations are high for the summer. In Estepona, the largest source markets are Spain, Britain, Germany and Scandinavia.

The majority of clients using La Duquesa marina are British, but there is growing interest from the Belgian market "because they particularly like the area around the town of Manilva", said Raigón.

With plenty of bookings coming in, it looks as though this marina could also be putting up a No Vacancies sign for yachts at times during this summer.