The Pilar public holiday 'bridge' weekend in Spain, that saw many holidaymakers take advantage of the four-day break, filled the tourist hotspots of Malaga and the Costa del Sol with visitors and left scenes that, except for occasional mask requirements, were a reminder of the times when no one spoke of any virus.
The good weather and an absence of many coronavirus restrictions - beyond the need to wear a facemask in closed places - helped give a boost to the hospitality businesses and hoteliers, who once again saw their establishments almost full after 16 months of anti-Covid measures.
The first two days of the long weekend, Friday and Saturday, saw some 800 flights at the Costa del Sol airport. In total there were 1,878 aircraft movements, of which 408 were national and the rest (1,470) international. Malaga’s María Zambrano railway station was also working at full steam.
The Costa del Sol hoteliers association, Aehcos, said hotel occupancy forecast for the province was 76 per cent. And just as busy were the restaurants on the promenades along the coast as diners enjoyed the sunshine on the terraces.
President of the Malaga Hoteliers Association (Mahos), Javier Frutos, said, "The forecasts had been very good and I know that many businesses hired extra staff for these four days."
Manuel Villafaina, president of the Malaga Beach Business Association, added, "The weather was exceptional, the beaches were busy and we saw that the hotels had good occupancy rates."
A boost in the nightlife sector was also noted, after an easing of coronavirus restrictions in the many areas that moved to health alert Level 0. Juan Rambla, president of Andalucía de Noche y Noche (Málaga) nightlife business association, reported that the holiday weekend was "very good".
"People wanted to come to our establishments after more than a year without being able to go out and have a good time," he added.
National tourism continues to be mainstay for the hospitality industry on the coast, although more and more tourists from other countries have been seen arriving last weekend. Many of the grilled sardines served at Malaga’s beach restaurants were consumed by Belgians, French, Dutch and Scandinavians, according to Villafaina.
Large groups of foreigners also danced in the discos, Rambla points out while Frutos, estimated that international tourism accounted for 50 per cent of hotel stays.
The representatives of the three sectors (hoteliers, beach bars and nightlife) agree that, in addition to the boost to their tills, the Pilar ‘bridge’ weekend leaves them feeling more positive after the effect the pandemic has had on them, "We had hit rock bottom so, psychologically, it has given us a boost.”