The pandemic may have put the brakes on tourism for a while but the same cannot be said about tourist accommodation on the Costa del Sol, which has not only continued to grow but reached new heights last year.
This destination is a pioneer in tourism and interest from investors, entrepreneurs and professionals has meant that Malaga province now has 514,838 beds available for tourists and can accommodate over half a million a day for the first time ever.
Figures issued in the Andalusian Register of Tourism a couple of weeks ago, and supplied by the regional government, show how strong the Costa del Sol brand actually is. Even after the worst episode in the history of tourism it currently has 48 per cent more spaces for tourists to sleep in hotels, self-catering accommodation and campsites than before the coronavirus crisis began. In other words, this is the best year ever for the tourism industry in this area.
It is worth remembering that in February last year the Costa del Sol reached the landmark figure of 450,000 beds available for visitors, because a further 50,000 were added during the two years of the pandemic. A figure which was boosted, as is happening again now, by a major increase in private properties used for holiday lets after new rules on officially registering them were introduced for the first time in 2016.
The same situation has occurred in the past year: the number of private properties registered for holiday lets has increased considerably. This is a combination of two factors: some accommodation is being offered for the first time, but in other cases owners have returned to the tourist market after renting their properties long-term when tourism was hit so hard by the pandemic.
The president of the Association of Tourism Properties in Andalucía (AVVA-Pro), Carlos Pérez-Lanzac, has confirmed that some of the accommodation which had been taken off the holiday let market in 2020 is now available again. He also explained that new products are being designed to cater for longer stays by people who want to be able to work from a holiday home and foreigners who want to come to destinations like the Costa del Sol for the winter because it is warmer and energy costs are so high in their own countries.
He also said new apartment blocks are being built specifically for holiday lets, and nowadays there is a noticeable trend to attract the type of traveller who has high purchasing power.
Marbella heads the list of Costa's top ten towns with the most beds for tourists to sleep in
The big increase in the number of people registering private homes for holiday lets has changed the list of towns on the Costa del Sol which have the most places for tourists to stay. Torremolinos, for example, has been knocked off the top spot in terms of total numbers of beds, although it does have more beds in hotels than anywhere else. It is interesting that there are not as many self-catering properties to rent in this town, possibly because of the strength of its hotel sector and its longstanding tradition as a destination for this type of holiday. According to the figures from the Andalusian Register of Tourism the top of the list is now taken by Marbella, which has 87,493 beds for visitors, of which only 16,086 are in hotels. Next comes Malaga city, where there has been unstoppable growth in the holiday rental sector. The provincial capital now offers 66,285 beds, of which 14,857 are in hotels. In third place is Mijas, with 49,266 beds, but only 2,520 of them in hotels. Benalmádena is fourth on the list, with 46,588 beds (nearly 14,000 of which are in hotels), and fifth is Torremolinos, a different picture, with 45,264 beds of which over half (24,282) are in hotels. Also on the list of the places with the highest number of beds for tourists are Estepona, Fuengirola, Nerja, Manilva and Ronda, the only inland town to be included in the ranking. In Ronda there are 7,664 beds for visitors, of which 2,436 are in hotels.
«This is going to be an important year in Andalucía because regulations are being brought in to establish a professional model of residential tourism and ways of accommodating digital nomads and energy tourists who want medium-length stays. The new rules are a way of anticipating the new demands,» he explained.
The figures show that the number of properties offering holiday lets has grown by 87 per cent since 2019, and the total is now 62,394. Of these, 55,093 have 291,674 beds available for tourists: that is 57 per cent of all those on the Costa del Sol. In addition, there are 22,601 beds in the 3,466 properties in the rural accommodation sector.
The rise in the number of self-catering properties has meant that the hotels have lost their top position and the gap has widened, even though the number of hotel beds has also increased considerably. The latest figures show that at present there are 898 hotels in Malaga province, with a total of 108,779 beds.
Since 2019, another 45 hotels have opened, adding more than 8,300 beds. The highest growth, strangely enough, has been in both the most expensive and cheapest categories; this reflects a situation in which the number of tourists with high purchasing power has increased, but so has the number of younger people who are interested in the new versions of the traditional cheap hostels.
Since the pandemic began five new four-star hotels have opened in the province, together with one five-star and one grand luxury. These top-level categories now offer nearly 62,000 beds, accounting for 57 per cent of the total hotel capacity in a destination which during this period has also seen a major increase in investment in complete reforms to renew and transform the hotel sector.
Specifically, a report from Colliers says 228 million euros were spent to this effect in 2022, which was 14 per cent of the total in Spain.
The pandemic has made short breaks and longer holidays in the countryside of Malaga province very fashionable because people wanted to be away from crowds and in contact with nature. The Costa del Sol Tourist Board has said that 2022 was the best year ever for holidays in rural areas and the amount of accommodation on offer has also been increasing.
In addition to the 3,466 rural private holiday homes offering accommodation (with 22,601 beds), there are 2,034 official 'casa rural' self-catering properties with nearly 14,000 beds.
As a result of these increases, 1,600 businesses have opened and nearly 12,000 beds have become available for people who want to enjoy living village life together with the permanent residents.
It has become apparent that this type of tourism is a way of combating the problem of depopulation in rural villages
In this newly popular way of travelling, campsites have also reaped the benefit. This was the only sector which ended 2022 with higher figures than before the pandemic, and on the Costa del Sol the number of campsites has increased from 38 in 2019 to 43 at present, with the ability to accommodate over 16,000 visitors.
The positive tourism figures so far indicate that once again in the coming year it is going to be this sector which will drive the economy of the province's biggest city, large coastal resorts and even small villages in the countryside.
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