Even more visitors have flocked to Malaga province than in 2019. / SUR

Summer tourism on the Costa beats 2019 and recovers to pre-Covid levels

Peak season was saved by a big surge in those coming from Spain and now industry bosses want to focus on winning back lost international visitors

PILAR MARTÍNEZ MALAGA.

The Costa del Sol's first summer after the Covid-19 pandemic has been a record breaker for tourism, with visitor numbers and money earned from them up on 2019.

The success has been driven by a big surge in the number of Spanish visitors coming, according to the Costa del Sol tourist board. Bosses there are delighted with the results and have said that the next few months are looking very rosy too.

From June to August this year - the three peak summer months - some 5.7 million tourists came to Malaga province, including the Costa del Sol, up 0.8% on 2019.

The amount of income from hotel rooms also surged to an average 115.7 euros, 21.7% more than 2019.

The rise in Spanish visitors made up for the drop in international arrivals. From July to August, passenger numbers overall at Malaga Airport were down seven percentage points on 2019 and international passenger numbers in particular were down 10%; in two key markets for the Costa there were bigger drops - the British arrivals dropped by 17% and the Germans by 24%.

The president of the Costa delSol tourism board - and also president of the Malaga provincial authority - Francisco Salado said that there would be a big promotional push in those two countries in the last part of this year.

For the next few months to Christmas, the number of flight seats on offer by airlines is up almost 19% on what was available last year.

As a key part of the strategy to help build demand over the winter, and with Europe faced with higher heating bills, the Costa del Sol is aiming to position itself as an ideal place to escape to warmer temperatures and to potentially save money.

The idea is that it would be better to spend the season in this area, where central heating is generally not necessary, than have to pay bills in Germany, Britain or the Netherlands, for example, due to the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Salado announced that fresh campaigns costing one million euros are being planned to attract a new profile of visitor, a type of "energy nomad" from elsewhere in Europe who will spend the winter in Malaga province, where they won't be so cold and won't have high bills to pay. "They will be better off spending the winter with us," he said.

He pointed out that, in some cases, governments are advising their citizens to travel somewhere warmer. "The Costa del Sol has an advantage here," he explained, "because it is already a benchmark for good weather and quality facilities." This is also a good business opportunity which the area has no intention of missing.

Salado also announced that in the last three months of this year the Costa del Sol will be represented in the main tourism fairs, professional conferences and activities relating to different segments of the market.

The tourism industry hopes that 2023 will be a year of consolidation after the pandemic. "We want to recover visitors from those markets where the numbers are still down and ensure the loyalty of those who have still been coming, so the tourist board is organising around 50 different promotions," Salado said.

Rental market looking good

Meanwhile, the growing holiday letting market is doing well too. The president of the Association of Holiday Homes in Andalucía, Carlos Pérez-Lanzac, said this week that this type of accommodation will generate 1.8 billion euros in the Andalucía region this year, which is even more than in 2019. He also pointed out that more than 50% of these rental properties in Andalucía are in Malaga province.

"We have a more professional profile now and that has enabled prices and profits to go up. Clients are also staying longer, nearly five days on average. These tourists are very valuable because of the economic impact they have," he said.