José Luis Martín Lorca, in front of one of Fuengirola's ML hotels. SUR
Costa del Sol's tourism sector in mourning after death of iconic pioneer

Costa del Sol's tourism sector in mourning after death of iconic pioneer

José Luis Martín Lorca was most recently president of the Lorca group, which has two flagship ML Hotels in Fuengirola, and he was credited with putting the coast on the map for British tourists

Pilar Martínez


Friday, 21 June 2024, 12:48

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The Costa del Sol's tourism industry and the world of bullfighting are in mourning following the death of Malaga businessman José Luis Martín Lorca, president of the Lorca group. The tourism pioneer with a visionary character, who has been key in the successful development of numerous hotel projects, has died at the age of 89.

Currently, ML Hotels has two flagship establishments in Fuengirola: the recently renovated and expanded ML Ángela, and the ML Yaramar, both four-star hotels. The company is also developing a large complex in Mijas known as Valle del Golf. The project aims to recreate an Andalusian village over nearly 80,000 square metres, featuring a five-star hotel, the largest golf course in Andalucía, and an unprecedented equestrian centre. ML Hotels also owns its own breeding farm for fighting bulls.

The news of the death of the iconic businessman spread like wildfire and has left a great void. Martín Lorca was an icon of tourism, an industry in which he garnered numerous accolades throughout his life. In 2015, the Spanish government awarded him the medal of tourism merit "for extraordinary services rendered after more than sixty years of commitment to the sector," as reported by the council of ministers. SUR captured the initial reactions where the emotional businessman confessed that it had been "quite a surprise" and recalled that he had dedicated his entire life to tourism.

Long career

Martín Lorca began his career in 1954 in the legendary Hotel Miramar. It was the beginning of a journey that includes milestones such as being part of Spain's first international tour operator, Horizon, and driving the creation of nearly 6,400 hotel rooms and over 1,200 jobs in more than half a century of tourism activity. Until just a few years ago, he continued to lead his hotels, which he visited daily as a retired man, proud to head a chain bearing his initials, ML. "I have never seen it as a job, as an obligation," he declared in an interview with SUR after receiving the medal of tourism merit. "1954 was an unforgettable date. I started in the accounting department at Hotel Miramar and later moved to reception. I spent a total of six years there. I had the opportunity to go to London for a year and a half and then to Germany. I worked at the reception of the Bradenbaherhof. I learned German and married a German woman whom I met at Hotel Miramar. After that, I spent another year and a half in Geneva, which allowed me to speak French and gain extensive hotel experience."

Ahead of his time

He was ahead of his time, considering that when he started in Malaga, there was only Hotel Miramar and the newly opened Pez Espada. He later returned to the Costa del Sol, and he did so at the hotel bearing the same name. From there to Torremora, owned by the Horizon company where he eventually became CEO, opening 14 hotels across Spain, including Pueblo Indalo in Mojácar and Mónica, putting Nerja on the tourist map for the British. Later, he embarked on his solo journey with Hotel Ángela, followed by Yaramar and Florida, sold in 2022, all in Fuengirola.

Family and friends have said their last farewell to a loved and admired businessman, both in the world of tourism and in the bullfighting world, where he established his own bull-breeding ranch in 1990. His cattle graze at La Navarra estate in Castillo de las Guardas, Seville. Additionally, he managed bullfighters like Miguel Márquez, Ricardo Ortiz, and Francisco José Porras, and put on bullfights in cities such as Malaga and Burgos. He managed the bullring in La Malagueta from 2000 to 2006, significantly boosting events. In 2017, he then returned to run Malaga city's bullring again, initially with other businessmen as part of Toros del Mediterráneo, a company he later took exclusive control of along with his son-in-law, José Carlos Escribano, until 2020.

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