MalagaMalaga has always been recognised for its wonderful portrayal of palatial architecture. This has not been recognised more fully than through some of the beautiful hotels to be found within the city and its surroundings.
Some excellent news for tourism has just been announced where it is confirmed that the beautiful edifice of the Hotel Miramar Palace is going to be fully renovated and restored to its previous grandeur. The hotel, built early in the early part of the last century between 1921 and 1926 was formerly called Hotel Príncipe de Asturias.

It was the work of the architect Guerrero Strachan and featured the best of his imaginative talents. In particular, he applied individualisation to the roofs and blended a mix of colours on the facade of the building. Combining ochre coloured walls with the delicate beige of the rusticated pilasters and reinforced quoins. This background of subtle colouring offset the beautiful ceramics on terrace handrails and eaves. He also made sure that other ceramics utilised throughout the building reflected the vibrant colouring of ceramics through plant plots and vases etc.

The front of the hotel facing the sea is a busy scene with its open towers, colourful roofs interspersed with cavities and points of detail. Inside there is a wonderful patio that is square with a surround of round arches on columns in a classical style. This theme is continued in the upper floors. The ballroom, located on the sea side of the building, takes full advantage of the wonderful view with huge windows that look out onto the garden and beyond.

The renovation is due to start later this year with a planned reopening in 2015. All has been approved by Malaga City Council with attendant building licences and has the blessing of the Junta de Andalucia Department for Culture as a protected building. The project cost is estimated at some €40 million and includes restoring all to the original included elements that were removed in the late ‘70s when it was used as a provincial court. The plans include 191 double rooms, nine suites and 14 junior suites. There will be more than 9000 m² of gardens with a heated swimming pool.

A second historical hotel, much smaller but with traditional charm is the Hotel Castillo de Santa Catalina. This was originally a fortress built in 1624 by King Philip 1V as part of the defences of the city. By the early part of the 20th century, it had fallen into disrepair until it was decided to restore and adapt it to a palace. This was undertaken by the French architect duo of Levard and Lahalle, who constructed a near-Arabian style creation that made use of its spectacular location overlooking the Bay of Malaga.

Since then, Castillo Santa Catalina was converted into the hotel that is now standing. It retains the luxury and beauty of a stately palace and offers a stay in one of the most prolific historical buildings in the city. It still retains its elegant charm and makes the most of its beautiful gardens covering 3500 m² of undulating landscape. At the other end of the scale to the Hotel Miramar Palace, it only offers 11 spacious bedrooms. Eight of these are luxurious suites that are all exquisitely decorated, reflecting their classic background and retaining style with ambience. All offer stunning views of the sea and have beautiful marble floors and old hydraulic tiles. Its position is in a quieter part of the city in the exclusive residential area of El Limonar but within easy reach of the centre.

The fact that the large Miramar Palace is to be restored can only be good news for tourism on the Costa del Sol and reflects the new positive thinking regarding the expected influx of visitors from the new developing countries.

 

Air travel to MalagaEaster heralded the arrival of summer on the Costa del Sol. Malaga airport saw the influx of people from more northern climes escaping the extremely cold extended winter in those parts. With the new season, there sees the addition of 22 new destinations from the airport that is extremely good news on the tourism front. Passengers for example, can now fly direct from Cardiff in Wales, Belfast, Brussels, Dortmund and Hannover in Germany with the other links commencing in June.

This summer during the peak season, more than 50 airlines will be operating flights into Málaga. The city is already the third in the European ranking with the most flights from the UK and this position has been further strengthened this season. Incredibly, there are now flight connections from 32 cities in the United Kingdom alone.

Connections with Germany have also been improved after the case was made very clear by tour operators who stressed that there was an urgent need for more direct flights at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin earlier this year. Interestingly, it is Ryanair that is now offering direct flights between Malaga and Dortmund whilst Vueling offer the Hannover connection. Jetairfly link Brussels with the Costa del Sol and later from June there will be a direct route between Malaga and Istanbul offered by Turkish airlines, making it the first important link viewed as the gateway to Asia.

Further good news is that Delta airlines will resume direct flights between Malaga airport and JFK airport in New York. Beginning in June, this exemplifies the growing links between America and southern Spain. There are four flights a week during June and July that will increase in frequency to 5 times a week in August. The route will be jointly operated by Delta’s partner Air France.
Malaga airport, since its extension in 2010, now operates three terminals. The addition of the second runway opened last year has also allowed for the estimated substantial increases in visitors arriving. Particularly from the developing markets such as Russia and China.

In 2012, over 12.5 million passengers passed through the airport making it the fourth busiest airport in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Majorca. It also marks it as the most important destination for Spanish tourism in the South and it is good to see that allowances have been made for its future growth. Currently, Malaga airport accounts for 85% of international traffic and is the only one offering such a wide variety of international destinations. These include more and more flights to Africa, the Middle East and both north and south Americas.

More interesting information has arisen with regard to the different types of vacation that holidaymakers enjoy. For example, although the number of UK package holidays declined by almost 4% last year, the independent travellers soared by a revealing 30%. These represented over 47% of arrivals. The figures that were issued by the Spanish tourist office also show that the UK continues to provide more visitors to Spain than from any other country by a large margin. This growth in independent travelling is attributed by the increase in service by no-frills airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair. Public confidence in booking via the Internet has grown beyond all bounds. Undoubtedly this will continue to grow as the Internet will be the main source of booking into the future either by computer or by the developing software in iPhones. The Internet is also encouraging people to take more short breaks or long weekends.

All bodes well for the future of tourism on the Costa del Sol. The need is to look after our visitors and offer continuing excellent service such as that offered by CarGest, the leading car hire company in Málaga.

 

The World Economic Forum commented a few days ago that Spain has the world’s fourth most competitive travel and tourism sector. In these crisis ridden times, this is extremely encouraging news and it makes the sector of tourism one of the few that is continuing to grow and create jobs. Spain is also the country that is in the top 10 for creating the biggest improvement since 2011. It is now ranked fourth on the list, moving up four places since the last assessment.

A further piece of encouraging news is that the country continues to lead in cultural resources. This is due mainly to the country ranking first this year in this area because of the numerous World Heritage sites recorded. Also, its large number of international fairs and exhibitions held where it ranks third and finally its significant sports stadium capacity. Added to this, its legendary tourism infrastructure, providing another strength with its many hotel rooms, professional car rental organisations and the number of ATMs. Finally, of course, the country’s air transport infrastructure is highly developed and accordingly ranks amongst the top 10 worldwide.

It is interesting that The World Bank has noted that starting a business in Spain has become less costly and that hotel prices have decreased that, combined together, provide the reasons for the countries rise in the rankings. The government too, has been recognised in helping to keep tourism high on its agenda. Along with its development programme, making Spain the top 10 economy for prioritisation of the industry which is commendable during current financial climes. Alongside this, Spain has maintained its tremendous efforts on the marketing activity and on the industrial development.

Tourist on the up

“The tourism industry is extremely important for Spain and traditionally is a great source of work for young people. Its success could be a viable solution to the country’s unemployment problem”, World Economic Forum director for tourism and aviation Thea Chiesa told Spanish news agency Efe.

In a biannual 140 country ranking of competitiveness within the world’s travel and tourism trade, The World Economic Forum stated that overall Switzerland had retained the top slot, that it had indeed held in all five previous reports. Overall, Europe was the world’s most competitive region with Germany, Austria, Spain and the UK close behind the Swiss. The balance of the top 10 list was made up by the united states, France, Canada, Sweden and then Singapore. The forum reported that travel and tourism had retained its resilient status against the downgraded economic picture globally. “The sector has benefited from the continuing globalisation process. Travel has been increasing individual markets and has particularly been driven by the rising purchasing power of the growing middle class from many of the developing countries”, it commented.

Seven out of every ten Europeans undertook travelling in 2012 and of the European Union holidaymakers, as many as 88% spent their vacations somewhere in the EU, either in their own country or another Member State. Out of the developing countries, Russia figured strongly with many of its people wanting to enjoy the pleasure of Spain’s beaches and cultural experiences in ever greater numbers. These are proving to be big spenders, thus providing a much needed boost to the country’s key tourism sector. Overall, the office attractions for them are the excellent weather, beaches, historic venues and the easy-going nature of the Spanish themselves.

Therefore, with Russia alone totalling over 1 million visitors last year, representing an increase of almost 40% over the previous year, indicates that the country can be encouraged to send more visitors by the continuing excellent service that they are receiving in Spain currently.

 

Malaga footballThe up this week for the Costa del Sol’s foremost football club was their win in the UEFA Champions League played at La Rosaleda stadium in Málaga. They came from a 1-0 deficit to beat the 2004 winners Porto, which means that they now go forward to the quarter-finals, 2-1 on aggregate. The club will join the remaining two Spanish teams La Barca, Barcelona and Real Madrid in hoping to reach the finals to be played at Wembley in the United Kingdom in May. Their next game on the journey to the semi finals takes them to play Borussia Dortmund of Germany.

Los Boquerones, as they are known locally, have a strong following on the Costa del Sol. Not only amongst the Spanish but also the many ex-patriots living along the coast. Their success recently is not only down to their truly international players but also their coaching staff. This includes Manuel Pellegrini, their coach who originates from Chile. He has come from a very successful career in Chile where he was a member of the National team coaching side. He has brought to Málaga an array of highly talented players including those from Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

The down at this time for Málaga Football Club is the proposed ban imposed by UEFA for irregularities in their finances, mainly focused it is alleged, on the question of certain unpaid bills. There is an ongoing appeal on the ban which potentially could last four years. This would obviously spell disaster not only for Los Boquerones but for the thousands of their fans. Amongst these is Antonio Banderas, the club’s most famous fan, who has criticised UEFA for banning the Spanish club from future competition. After seeing the game last week, Antonio said that he hoped Málaga’s appeal against the ban at the court of arbitration for sport would be upheld. UEFA said in its ruling published in December that “due to the presence of significant overdue payables balances” the club was being sanctioned. Furthermore, the club was ordered to prove by the end of this month that no dues payables towards football clubs or their employees and creditors are outstanding. Quite rightly, Antonio Banderas comments that it was an excessively harsh decision that will have a negative effect on the Spanish league makes sound sense. He is hoping that the relevant parties analyse the situation with a cool head and give their backing to Málaga.

The fact is that the Costa del Sol club has beaten some of Europe’s elite clubs despite their institutional problems. Last Wednesday’s magnificent 2-0 victory came after the club beat Italy’s foremost football club Milan, on their way to topping their group. Banderas went on to say that getting past Porto into the last eight was an incredible triumph for the club after years of ups and downs.

Hopefully, the owner of Málaga football club, Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, will act to clear up any outstanding financial considerations. He bought the club in 2010 and invested heavily to help them qualify for the champions league with a fourth placed finish last season. This saw the arrival of high profile international players that converted the club into a major sports presence. It also saw the commitment to opening up opportunities for young players from all over the province of Málaga through the club’s La Academia del Málaga club de Fútbol.

So, let’s wish Los Boquerones every good fortune for the future and the continued fall in support of its loyal fans including Antonio Banderas.