COSTA DEL SOL
 
HISTORY OF THE COSTA DEL SOL


The Costa del Sol came into being as an international tourism resort in the second half of the last century. That was a time when a few wealthy people in search of something different came to these shores, while at the same time, mass tourism began to change the coast from a fishing and farming-based rural community to what it is today.

Nobody knows with certainty where the Costa del Sol got its name, although there are various theories, none of them entirely credible. We do know, nevertheless, that the name appeared as such in the advertising for the Spanish-American Fair in Seville in 1929. It is said that a certain Austrian consul in Cádiz, who used to travel along the coast to Almería frequently, dreamed up the name, due to the single aspect of the region that everybody is aware of, especially in the summertime: the sun shines a lot here. We can thus suppose that, if this is true, the Costa del Sol once described the entire coastline from Cádiz to Almería, and not only the Malaga coastal strip that we know today as the world-famous Costa del Sol.

In any case, the real beginnings of tourism on the Costa del Sol bring us back to an Englishman named George Langworthy, known locally, and logically, as ‘El ingles,’ who settled in Torremolinos with his wife at the end of the 19th century. The couple lived in the Santa Clara Castle, and in the beginning of the 20th century, converted it into a residence for foreigners, charging them one peseta per night.

Years later, Carlota Alessadri Tettamanzy converted one of her properties into what became the Parador de Montemar, and shortly afterwards, opened the La Roca Hotel. From these three establishments grew the hotel industry of the Costa del Sol, a big step forward being the opening of the Pez Espada Hotel in 1959. Within a few years, Torremolinos was a bustling tourist resort known all over Europe.

The spectacular growth of Torremolinos had a domino effect in reverse, and by the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies, the surrounding towns of Benalmádena, Mijas and Fuengirola had also grown into important tourist towns. The reasons had to do with climate, relatively inexpensive cost of living, cheap flights from Northern Europe and many more factors, not least the fact that many films were also made on the Costa del Sol – up to the end of 2003, a total of 230.

But just a few kilometres down the coast from Torremolinos, another boom in a different type of tourism was happening. This was at the hands of Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe, Noberto Goizueta and José Luque, the men responsible for placing Marbella on the international quality tourism map. Prince Alfonso had founded the Marbella Club in 1954, and with his worldwide contacts, managed to attract the cream of the international jet-set, from aristocrats and barons of industry to film stars and society hostesses. Then José Banús began the great marina and property project that was to link his name forever to international tourism in the shape of Puerto Banús. This attracted the people with the big yachts, and Puerto Banús began to acquire the fame that it enjoys today. He was also responsible for turning the land behind into a huge playground of top golf courses and stylish residential developments now known as Nueva Andalucía.

The building of golf courses was only one response to a growing demand for leisure facilities on the Costa del Sol. No longer were high-spending tourists satisfied with having a place to stay: they demanded something to do as well. Sophisticated discotheques opened up, casinos were built and quality shopping malls sprang up to cater to the everyday needs of both tourists and foreign residents. Theme parks were built, congress and convention halls, cultural centres and museums. Tourism began to edge into the interior of the province, with an ever-increasing demand for something different. The tourism-based real estate companies began to look towards the Serranía de Ronda in the west of the province - the Ronda mountain region - and the Axarquía in the east, and this interest extended into the Antequera and Guadalhorce Valley areas. 

The Axarquía, the name of which bears the authentic stamp of a Moorish past, had actually begun its tourism industry decades earlier, stimulated by the discovery of the famous caves of Nerja in 1959, but its growth was not quite as spectacular as on the other side of Malaga City. This is now the very charm of the region, whose beautiful mountain villages and towns have escaped the negative impact of international tourism. 

The Nerja Cave is, naturally, a magnificent and unique attraction in its own right, but it has also given birth to an international music and dance festival that is second to none. This, the International Nerja Cave Festival, takes place in the month of July every year, and has been doing so for the past 40 years, attracting top performers from all over the world to participate in it. Musical and dance styles range from classic to flamenco, and the festival is now one of the key dates on the Spanish cultural calendar. 

With the building of the new highway from Malaga City some years ago, the Eastern Costa del Sol was given a new lease of life as far as tourism is concerned, and is now one of the most important tourism resources of the province of Malaga.

One of the reasons for the huge success of the tourism industry on the Costa del Sol, from those distant beginnings in Torremolinos to the cosmopolitan tourist region of today, has been its ability to adapt to changing taste and demand. We are now the premier tourist destination in Spain in visitor numbers (8.6 million in 2003), and have a hotel capacity for more than 70,000, with some 300 hotels in the region. The history of the Costa del Sol goes back many centuries, and the history of tourism on the Costa del Sol is still being written..

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Spain - P.O. Box 47, Sucursal 1, 29649 Mijas-Costa, Spain
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