A bright summer ahead for the Costa's marinas

The occupancy of berths in 2020 was approximately 75 per cent, and it is expected thatthis will increase this year

ANDREA JIMÉNEZ

The marinas on the Costa del Sol are feeling optimistic about this summer. The gradual opening up to international tourism and acceleration of the vaccination campaign promises a season with better figures than last year, and interest in sailing and other nautical activities in the different ports in the area has been growing.

In 2020 most tourists came from other parts of Spain and this helped to improve the figures, but the occupancy forecasts for this year are regularly being adjusted upwards, said Manuel Jiménez, the president of Marinas de Andalucía, who runs the port in Benalmádena.

«We are seeing figures that are similar to last year, at least. Our forecasts had been rather negative because of all the uncertainty, but we now hope that this will be the year of recovery,» he said at the start of the season.

Marinas de Andalucía runs a group of 16 ports along the Andalusian coastline, eight of which are in Malaga province. Of the 8,000 berths, around 3,700 are on the Costa del Sol.

«That's almost half the total, and that reflects the potential we have in terms of facilities. Covid made many people turn to sailing for the first time because it is a safe outdoor activity,» said Jiménez, and the aim for this year is to retain these new clients.

«They had never tried sailing before but then they gave it a go. Now, we have to get them to keep it up,» he said.

Although as a general rule more yachts are based in marinas in Malaga than are in transit, this second option is important. «On average, visiting yachts stay for ten days. We are not as reliant on international tourism as other ports, but we are hoping that British, French, German and Scandinavian visitors will come,» said Jiménez.

In 2020 approximately 75 per cent of berths in Andalucía's ports were occupied, and it is hoped that this will increase this year. «At the very least, we want to match that figure. In 2019 we had over 90 per cent occupancy in some cases, so that was a very good year,» he said. He also pointed out that the Law of Andalusian Ports was reformed in November, providing indirect regulation of the marinas and greater «legal certainty» regarding concessionary rights.

The change will also mean a leap forward in quality for the marinas and their services, because it will now be necessary to carry out studies into the viability of concessions and commit to new investment in environmental sustainability. «The Andalusian port system is going to be renewed to improve,» Jímenez said.

There is also optimism at the ports of La Duquesa and Estepona, both of which are run by Grupo Marinas del Mediterráneo. «Occupancy in May was good, at about 65 per cent. There is movement and a lot of people want to come; the clientele at Estepona tend to be mostly Spanish, but at La Duquesa it is mainly international,» said Manuel Raigón, the managing director of Marinas del Mediterráneo, who predicts a good summer season with positive figures and expects it to last through to October.

Activities

The number of boats coming into Estepona port tripled between February and June this year. «Clients are very keen to enjoy some sailing. The boatyards have received numerous requests for tuning and the demand for medium and long stays is continually increasing,» said Raigón.

He also pointed out that interest in nautical activities is growing in general, and so is the tourism based on boat rental.

«That has increased considerably, because there is now a commercial network which everyone can afford,» he said. In these marinas, he added, the jet-ski platforms are completely occupied

This interest in nautical activities is reflected nationally, and this year the figures are even higher than they were pre-Covid. According to a report by ANEN, the National Association of Nautical Businesses, leisure craft registrations increased by 81 per cent between January and April this year, compared with the same period in 2020, when the market fell by 37 per cent due to the pandemic. In comparison with the same period in 2019, the number of registrations has grown by 13.44 per cent.

Between January and April this year, 1,815 leisure craft were registered in Spain, compared with 1,003 last year and 1,600 in 2019. «Twenty per cent of these are in Andalucía, and it is a region with potential where the sector has grown a great deal. The figures are making us optimistic about the summer,» said Manuel Raigón.

Of all the yachts registered during the first quarter of this year, 75 per cent were for personal use and the remainder were for charter (rental). This market grew by 110.91 per cent compared with the same period in 2020, and by 20.52 per cent in comparison with 2019.

«A lot of companies are doing this now. We have to make people realise that sailing is not just for the rich any more, there is something to suit all budgets,» said Jiménez.

By length, registration of boats under eight metres grew by an average of 81.7 per cent and these are still very much in demand, accounting for 84 per cent of the market. Registration of those between eight and 12 metres increased by 82.7 per cent, between 12 and 16 metres in length by 97.2 per cent and there was a record increase in yachts more than 16 metres long, with registrations increasing by 187.5 per cent, although they only account for 1.3 of the market.