“Golf makes our destination 100 per cent attractive throughout the year”

Margarita del Cid, president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios de la Costa del Sol Occidental (Western Costa del Sol Council of Municipalities), deputy spokesperson for the Spanish Parliament’s Industry, Energy and Tourism Commission, a law graduate and a town planning expert, talks to us about golf and the inter-municipal organisation over which she presides.

- This year (2013) Costa del Sol tourism has been almost like it was during the best years, and golf has not missed out on that recovery. What expectations does the Mancomunidad (Council) have in the short and medium term for tourism in general and the golf sector in particular in this area?

- It’s true, tourism this year has returned to the maximum levels of the mid-1990s, which is quite encouraging and great news for the 11 municipalities that comprise this area, as far as economic recovery and employment are concerned. Between June and September the Costa del Sol welcomed 5.2 million tourists, which represents growth of six per cent compared with the same period in 2012, and wealth generation of nearly 4,500 million euros.

A key to this positive result has been a seven per cent increase in international tourism, exactly the kind of visitors who normally come here to enjoy our wide and varied golf amenities. So expectations are very good for the next few months, especially because we are able to offer an excellent destination not only during summer.

- Málaga province is, above all else, a sun and beach destination, and golf is the main sector that breaks the seasonal nature of this tourism. How important is golf for the Mancomunidad in establishing its tourism promotion strategy?

- Golf is essential in breaking the seasonal nature of Costa del Sol tourism, one of the aspects that makes our destination 100 per cent attractive throughout the year. The Mancomunidad is committed to transforming this area into somewhere that people can enjoy the whole 12 months, which is why we are heavily involved in diversifying the range of amenities we offer. To sun and beach it is important to add golf, as a key tool in easing the seasonal trend we are referring to, but there are also other elements such as cultural tourism, gastronomy, water sports and nature.

There are many reasons for visiting the Costa del Sol, but it is clear that golf, and our excellent amenities in this respect, set us apart as pioneers at a European level and in the most demanding international markets.

- The Costa del Sol is the number one golf tourism destination in Europe. What do you believe needs to be done to maintain that privileged position?

- It is essential that all the administrative bodies involved in tourism and promotion are fully committed to golf, because it’s an aspect that consolidates our credentials for touristic excellence. And I’m convinced that the increase in the number of international visitors is very closely associated with our golf amenities, so it’s a good way of maintaining this line of growth that is so productive for us.

- The Costa del Sol also leads the way on the continent in using regenerated water for golf course irrigation and now, with expansion of the La Vibora treatment plant in Marbella, the number of courses receiving this supply will be increased. How many courses are being irrigated using recycled water?

- The public water utilities company Acosol, which comes under the auspices of the Mancomunidad, is advancing well with the service it offers supplying regenerated water for irrigation to 37 golf courses on the western part of the Costa del Sol.

The company’s objective is to reach nearly all the courses and, to that end, is pressing ahead with expansion plans as part of an agreement with Acuamed at the treatment plants La Vibora in Marbella and Cerros del Águila in Fuengirola. Both represent a major impetus for the golf sector.

To give you an idea, up to September, Acosol had supplied 4.359.975 cubic metres of regenerated water. The company supplies an average of 300,000 cubic metres of regenerated water a year to each course.

- Does the fact that courses are irrigating using recycled water supplied by Acosol (and, as its overseeing body, the Mancomunidad) serve in a way to refute criticism by environmental groups about the large consumption of water required by golf courses?

-  I like to be very respectful in relation to environmentalists’ claims in this sense, because I can’t respond on the subject of what other golf destinations are doing. In the case of the Mancomunidad, yes, we are very respectful in this respect and have made great advances to ensure that irrigation is carried out using regenerated water, and that the environmental impact is therefore the minimum possible.

It is clear that there is a different way of doing things, and I’m convinced that, thanks to the challenges set by Acosol, we are breaking moulds and becoming a point of reference in Europe in reference to these kinds of measures.