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The magazine Andalucia Para Vivir of May, 2011, has an interesting story about Malaga, titled “Malaga Se Apunta al City Break”, written by Virginia Carmona. It tells the story of how Malaga became a city break destination. Torremolinos used to be joined to Malaga in the past and the majority of tourists used to go to Torremolinos for its beaches. In 1988 Torremolinos decided to break away from Malaga and become a separate city. The majority of hotels were in Torremolinos and Malaga had few hotels of its own. So the majority of tourists continued to go to Torremolinos and Malaga was left with little tourism of its own.
A “city break” is an escapade of two or three days and is motivated by an urban tourism that is cultural and gastronomic. Many people do not have the time to go on vacation for a whole month because of work pressures. So the city break has emerged in recent years and visitors go to one city only which has diverse attractions. Malaga has emerged as one of the favorite city break destinations in Europe. The director of Malaga’s tourist office says that 70% of the city’s visitors come to Malaga as a city break.
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) organized the Irish Travel Industry Awards 2011 and many European cities were nominated as favorite city break destinations, and the finalists included London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, and Malaga. Barcelona emerged the winner but the tourist industry of Malaga was left happy that Malaga was one of the cities recognized.
What has happened between 1988 and today? First of all new hotels were constructed. There is one 5-star hotel now and about fifteen 4-star hotels, and more are on the drawing board. The city has emerged as a cultural center and there are fifteen museums in the city now. These include the new Carmen Thyssen Museum and the very different Glass and Crystal Museum, which is also like a decorative arts museum. The Automobile Museum has a wonderful collection of vintage cars and this came in 2010. The Picasso Museum that was inaugurated in 2003 is a must for lovers of modern art. Early in 2012 the Palacio de la Aduana will inaugurate the Museo de Bellas Artes, which has treasures of 19th century art and archaeology.
Malaga has about 500 food businesses in the historic center, which include restaurants, cafeterias, bars, and tapas places, all concentrated in a one kilometer square area. One can find many fish restaurants among these, and fried fish made Malaga famous a long time ago. One can find many places where one can try the Malaga sweet wine, such as the Restaurante El Pimpi and the Antigua Casa de Guardia. So Malaga is now a gastronomic destination too.
Another factor is the very good transportation that makes it easy to come to Malaga. The Malaga Airport is the third largest in Spain today and one can find many low cost airlines from many European cities that bring visitors to Malaga. About three years ago the high speed AVE reached Malaga and people from Madrid, Cordoba and Seville now have an easy way to reach Malaga.
The port has been improved and many cruise lines now come to Malaga. About 600,000 persons visited Malaga from cruise ships last year. It is expected that shortly one million will come to Malaga every year. There is a very large congress hall to hold congresses and every year many people arrive in Malaga for these. About 35,000 people come to Malaga every year to learn the Spanish language. But people who come to Malaga for city breaks are the ones who generate the most revenue for the city.
It is estimated that those who come to Malaga for city breaks generate a yearly revenue of 300 million euros for Malaga. The hotel occupancy rates now range from 65 to 70%. Of interest is that 50% of those who visit Malaga for city breaks are Spanish, and half of those come from Andalusia. The other 50% are foreigners that include the British, Germans, French, Italians, Dutch, Scandinavians, Americans, and Russians.
Malaga has great shopping. Calle Larios and Calle Nueva have many shops in the historic center. El Corte Ingles is a big department store with two buildings. Near El Corte Ingles is a big FNAC store. There are two big malls that are not far from the city center – Larios Centro and Vialia.
Now Malaga can compete on an equal footing with other big European cities as a city break destination. The factor that may give Malaga its winning edge is the local population. The Malagueños are happy, like to have fun, like fiestas and food, and are very friendly and try to please all visitors, no matter where they come from. It is a beautiful city with beaches, two wonderful tropical parks (the City Park and the Gardens of La Concepcion), a wonderful new Rose Garden and a historic center that has a thousand 19th century buildings that give atmosphere to the city. Streets are being renovated with attractive pavement. Monuments from the past are the Alcazaba, Gibralfaro Castle, and the Roman Theater. Malaga also has five churches that were founded by the Catholic Kings, probably more than any other Spanish city. These are filled with art and ecclesiastical treasures. There are two yearly celebrations that bring many visitors to Malaga, and these are the Holy Week Processions and the August Fair. December brings the Christmas lights with 4 million LED lights, and the Christmas light displays are one of the best in Spain. Most of these attractions are easy to get to by foot because most of them are concentrated in the historic center. And yes, Malaga has some of the best weather in Europe, with plenty of sunshine.