Emma Tremlett and José Sánchez Finlandia Hotel in Marbella / SUR

Holidays at Marbella's Finlandia Hotel transport guests to yesteryear

Opened in 1964, for the last fifteen years José Sánchez and his British wife, Emma Tremlett, have been carefully looking after the historic place


There are larger and more luxurious hotels, but the small and cosy Finlandia Hotel in Calle Notario Luis Oliver, rivals, and perhaps surpasses, Marbella's larger hotels in terms of experiences. At ten o'clock on Wednesday morning, an Italian guest, Luigi, on holiday with his family for the first time on the Costa del Sol, says goodbye to José Sánchez Pomares, the hotel’s owner and manager. "It's a great town. I'll be back, that's for sure," says Luigi, who has spent 10 days at the hotel.

"My clients are looking for simplicity. They don't need the services offered by the big hotels. Moreover, mine, is located right in the centre," says Sánchez. "We don't work on commission; our recommendations on the internet are real. And they are all very good, as evidenced by the fact that, from February to November, the "no vacancy" sign hangs on the door.

Despite having only a one-star rating, the Finlandia Hotel evokes the holidays of another era. There are no shops, no restaurants; just a Mediterranean-style, checkered-floored lobby, a reception desk, a small bar serving refreshments and snacks, a lounge area, a secluded terrace and a staircase at the bottom leading to the 12 rooms.

"Spaniards are the best customers"

Sánchez has been in charge of the management for fifteen years, together with his British wife Emma Tremlett, who describes herself as decorator, maintenance technician and public relations, among other functions. They live with their two children in a small annexe.

Tremlett, who has created "a place to rest and relax, to feel at home", is delighted with her children's closeness to people from other countries. "My children find no difference between a Spaniard, French or a Chinese person. It has enriched their lives because they don't see them as strangers and they are not afraid,” Emma says.

However, both José and Emma agree that "Spaniards are the best customers", and not only because of their behaviour. They recall the years 2020 and 2021, when international tourism came to a standstill, and how Spanish tourists helped them to save the summer seasons.

The family has a history going back nearly 60 years. Emma's grandmother stayed at the hotel in 1965, when it was run by Pepita Pomares and Emma and José had not yet been born. On opening her grandmother’s treasured travel notebook, there is the receipt for the payment of 1,000 pesetas for a week's stay. The name Hotel Finlandia, Sánchez explains, also takes us back to the time when a consul from the country lived in the street.

Going the extra mile

He became highly appreciated for his involvement in a storm that devastated what was then just a village. "He chartered a boat with blankets and food to assist the people here". His neighbour, the notary Luis Oliver, proposed that the street be renamed Finlandia. Today the street bears the name Luis Oliver, while the hotel keeps its Finnish connection.

José goes the extra mile for his guests and is never far away from the hotel. He is also a photographer and has taken pictures of hundreds of guests who have passed through his hotel. "All I do is help and make people happy," he says, taking no credit for his hard work. José loves to travel and would like to travel to the places where his clients come from, but during the seasonal months he must remain at his post. "In a way, I also travel through my clients," he concludes.