File photograph of tourists at a Malaga hotel. / SALVADOR SALAS

Hotels on the Costa forecast occupancy rate of 52% for the long 'puente' holiday

The hoteliers association, Aehcos, points out that international arrivals are already being hit by Omicron variant concerns. Meanwhile, rural houses and hotels have become a draw for many families because of the feeling of safety they inspire

MATÍAS STUBER

Costa del Sol hoteliers say they expect many hotels to be only half-full for the forthcoming ‘puente’ holiday in Spain, while also expressing concerns about the impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus on the remainder of bookings during the month of December.

That is despite the lure of some of the best Christmas lights in Europe, a weather forecast that speaks of clear skies and a cultural and gastronomic offer that invites tourists to choose Malaga province for the forthcoming long 'puente' of public holidays, which includes Constitution Day on Monday and the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday.

The hotel occupancy data reveals that the tourism sector continues to experience difficult times due to the pandemic, which have been revived with the appearance of a new variant of the virus, Omicron, which has caused many countries, including Great Britain, to re-introduce restrictions that affect and complicate travel.

“We are 18 percentage points below the occupancy registered for this ‘puente’ in 2019,” explained the vice president of the Aehcos hoteliers association on the Costa del Sol, Javier Hernández

International tourist numbers drop

“For this ‘puente’ holiday the international tourists only represent 35 per cent of the booking, while during the last one this year it was around 60 percent", Hernández told SUR.

Asked about the general situation in which the hotel sector finds itself, now that the recovery of recent months is put at risk with the appearance of a new variant of the virus, he was blunt: "Bad".

The occupancy percentages for this ‘puente’ and Hernández's views also confirm that the slight optimism that was being breathed in the Costa del Sol tourism sector has evaporated in recent days. The occupancy forecasts for the rest of December from Aehcos are not promising either. Barely 39 per cent is what is expected for the whole month of December.

The president of Aehcos, José Luque, points to the alarm generated in different issuing countries and the restrictions that have been imposed again on international mobility as the root of the problem. Things that "are already causing cancellations of events and Christmas holiday celebrations in the hotel sector."

Occupation by municipalities

The expected occupation rates during the ‘puente’ highlight a disparity between Malaga city and the traditional tourist destinations of the coast.

The best numbers, with an occupation rate of 78 per cent, are expected in the provincial capital. It is followed by Antequera, with 64 per cent, and Frigiliana-Torrox with 60 per cent.

Inland pull

Meanwhile, rural houses and hotels have become a draw for many families this year because of the feeling safety they inspire. According to Francisco García, the head of the La Garganta complex near the famous Caminito del Rey gorge walkway, these establishments foresee a 70 per cent occupancy rate for the holiday. "We have not quite reached a full house, but the pull that rural tourism is having is noticeable. In some areas of the province we have seen it at 85 per cent," he said.