The Costa del Sol is starting to mark the end of the holiday high season and some hotels are closing their doors for the first winter with full mobility since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
The initial data from the Costa del Sol hoteliers association, Aehcos, suggests that around 10 per cent of the establishments have already stopped accepting guests during the first fortnight of November. Precisely, some 31 hotels, with 12,790 beds (15.5 per cent of the total) have, so far, closed for the low season.
“We are at about half the impact that seasonality had on the destination before the pandemic. Nevertheless, there are still many establishments that have not made a decision and we estimate that the winter will be similar in terms of closures to the year before the pandemic, in which 61 hotels, with 25,545 beds stopped operating", says Javier Hernández, executive Vice President of Aehcos.
The hotel sector points to several reasons behind this gradual closure. The first is that the occupation rates are being maintained due to the good weather. Additionally, the recovery of international tourism and the public holiday weekends such as 12 October, 1 November and the 6 and 8 December, during which the hoteliers hope around 65% of the hotel beds will be occupied in the province. The hoteliers also acknowledge the ability to keep the establishments open even if they are not fully operating and react to demand thanks to the Erte furlough scheme, which the Government will maintain until February.
Employers say that if it were not for this tool, 20 or 30 per cent of the hotels would be closed. In fact, the CEO of ML Hoteles and vice president of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (Cehat), has urged bodies to open the debate on maintaining this measure to curb the impact of seasonality in tourist areas. “An open destination attracts more people and allows more jobs to be maintained because if the hotels do not close, neither do the shops or restaurants in the area. It is an option to consider because, without a doubt, Ertes are less expensive than sending workers to unemployment offices,” he said. The ML chain will keep its three establishments open until the end of the year and analyse the forecasts for the beginning of 2022 before deciding whether to remain open or close any of the hotels. "If any establishment closes, it would only be during January and February," he says.
Of those hotels that have already closed their doors, half of these are establishments that traditionally close seasonally; 20 per cent have done so to undertake improvement works, and the remaining 30 per cent say there is not enough demand. Most of the establishments will remain closed until April, although some are considering restarting in February and others keep the opening date flexible depending on the level of demand and the evolution of the pandemic.
Chains such as MS Hoteles, which is run by Miguel Sánchez, also president of the Tourism Council of the Confederation of Entrepreneurs of Andalucía (CEA), has already finalised its low season plan. On the 23 November, the MS Tropicana and MS Amaragua hotels will close, and a few days later, on the 27th, the MS Aguamarina hotel will stop receiving guests. Also, this month the MS Pepita apartments will close, leaving only the MS Maestranza, located in Malaga city, in operation in the province. Sánchez explains that "we hope to open these last two accommodations around the middle of January and by the end of that month, the MS Tropicana and MS Amaragua will be operational again."
Mari Francis Peñarroya, general director of the Holiday World group, has said that they will keep open the 350 rooms that are still operating, a third of the complex, until 31 December, and close in January to give holidays to the staff and undertake some improvements. “We are only going to close in January because we maintain steady occupancy levels the time, with clients from various markets.”