“The quality of its golf courses is one of the main reasons for the Costa del Sol’s international prestige”

Arturo Bernal Bergua, manager of the Patronato de Turismo de la Costa del Sol (Tourist Board), stresses that golf is a key segment of the Costa del Sol’s overall tourism industry, and that the organisation he runs is aware that – for this reason and because of its high level of potential growth – it must offer decisive support to the sector.

The Costa del Sol is the premier golf tourism destination in Europe. What promotional strategies are contemplated by the Patronato in this sector to maintain its leadership?

The Costa del Sol’s strategy in respect of the golf segment is to highlight the excellence of the province’s range of amenities. Over the past decade there has been a noticeable push by rival destinations, such as Portugal and Turkey, and the Patronato de Turismo Málaga-Costa del Sol is committed to boosting its marketing and communication policies in order to provide the province’s golfing wealth with greater visibility. That, of course, without overlooking other promotional activities such as attending fairs, professional seminars and familiarisation trips, which have given us such good results to date.

Tourist figures and hotel occupancy rates on the Costa del Sol this year are very positive. Are you noticing this rising trend at golf courses as well?

In golf and the other segments. We are observing a general increase which leads us to forecast growth in the total number of tourists of 7.6 per cent for this summer, when we expect 5.6 million visitors. In addition, for the whole of 2014, 10 million visitors are expected to arrive for all the different options (not just golf), when there were 9.5 million in 2013.

How has the promotion changed – or how is it changing – for a tourist destination subject to increasing involvement by the social networks?

Not all destinations are reacting in the same way to the impetus of new technologies. One of the most solid commitments by the Costa del Sol for this year is, effectively, in the direction of adapting ourselves to new user habits by tourists in the 21st century. In this sense, we have been working since the start of the year on Strategy 3.0, which we presented at Fitur (tourism fair in Madrid) and which includes all communication and marketing initiatives orientated towards satisfying the needs of a tourist who is now completely connected to the internet and its various communication channels. However, in addition, our commitment to the social networks is experiencing a significant boost this year with the opening up of new profiles in such markets as Russia and with the development of “engagement” on current national and international networks. In fact, the channels for different profiles that we have in the UK, Germany and the Nordic countries have greater content specifically aimed at the golf segment.

In your opinion, is the private sector doing enough to promote golf on the Costa del Sol?

The private sector in the province is very well aware that promotion is a key element in the evolution of any destination. Our working groups – on which the sector’s various companies are represented – are closely involved with the Patronato’s action plan, and provide a knowledge of the market that, without their contribution, would make it difficult to maintain the Costa del Sol’s leadership position.

It’s obvious that care needs to be taken with traditional source markets for golf tourists on the Costa del Sol (Britons, Germans, Nordics, Spanish…) but what’s being done to try to attract visitors from other countries?

As I noted before, there is a general commitment to all potential markets; for example, with the development of social networks in such countries as Russia. In addition, the action plan for this year includes specific initiatives in the markets you have just mentioned but also in others such as Switzerland, Austria, countries in eastern Europe, and the US where, for example, we have just been present at the IAGTO’s North American Convention.

Do courses on the Costa del Sol offer the quality, in general, required by this destination?

Without a doubt. The quality of its golf courses is one of the main reasons for the Costa del Sol’s international prestige. In quantity, we have the greatest density of golf courses in southern Europe, and in quality we have courses for all tastes: for beginners, professionals and internationally renowned venues that have been able to host top events at a world-class level.

Assuming that you have time to play golf, how is you game at the moment?

Well, not that well. Managing the Patronato de Turismo and having a large family leaves me with little time to enjoy what has always been my favourite sport, which I began playing 34 years ago at the hands of Juan and Miguel Ángel Jiménez at Torrequebrada Golf Club. Sometimes I satisfy my hunger by hitting a couple of buckets of balls at one of Málaga’s practice grounds. I suppose in the future I’ll be able to take it up again. At least that’s what I would like to do.