It can take pride in being the municipality with the highest number of golf courses in Spain – a total of 15 including installations with nine, 18 and 27 holes – and also to have hosted major international tournaments such as the World Cup and several European Tour events. The world’s most famous players have competed at its courses, among them Jack Nicklaus (who was a member of the winning US team in the 1973 World Cup at Las Brisas) and Gary Player.
One of the most prestigious tourist destinations in Europe, Marbella has ample reason to boast about its golf amenities, which attract tens of thousands of golfers from Spain and many other European countries every year, especially those coming from areas where the winter weather makes it difficult – if not impossible – to play golf.
The mayor of this cosmopolitan Costa del Sol municipality, José Bernal, is well aware of golf’s importance to Marbella as a generator of economic activity.
- What does golf mean to Marbella from a tourist perspective?
- In the first place, it’s a vital asset for Marbella’s tourism promotion, and also a key asset in the context of something we are constantly pursuing, and which golf provides us with: that is, a magic formula to ease the seasonal nature of tourism. Golf has an advantage in that its high season coincides with the low season for sun and beach tourism, and the fact that we have so many golf courses does not only mean that we can attract tourists of average and high spending power and offer options that help us stand out in comparison to other rival destinations, but also provides a formula for expanding our appeal during those months away from the typical period for sun and beach.
- What promotions are you undertaking at the moment and what can be done to boost golf tourism in Marbella?
- The town hall should promote golf much more, and that’s what we’re going to do. When it comes to Marbella’s courses, golf has been promoted in the context of the “Costa del Golf” and its 70 or so courses, but I believe we should promote our own options: quality golf that is respectful of the environment, of ecology – not for nothing do the majority of our courses use recycled water for irrigation – and which can be combined with extraordinary complementary options for those who come here to enjoy golf and also for their non-golfing companions. So that’s why we have to promote both golf and leisure, and we will be doing that. We have one of the best infrastructures in Europe.
- You recently met with the mayor of Miami. Did you talk about golf tourism?
- We talked about tourism in general and also golf. We’ve initiated an agreement for bilateral promotion which will culminate in the twinning of both destinations, which makes a lot of sense bearing in mind the great tourist potential of Miami in the United States and Marbella in Europe. We’ve talked about the need to work on something that is well established both there and here – and that’s golf. We’ve considered the possibility of holding an open tournament between Miami and Marbella, and for that we will need other institutions to be involved, as well as private capital.
The mayor suggested the possibility of holding an open that was an official event both in the United States and in Europe, and which would be held alternatively one year in Miami and the other in Marbella. So the twinning of the two cities could be through golf, and that’s what we’re working on.
Furthermore, I believe that private entities, golf courses and the whole economic sector that surrounds golf should make a commitment to promotion. A Marbella Open would be an excellent promotion, and promotion means many golf fans travelling to Marbella, and that of course results in greater tourist numbers. So I don’t believe it should be something exclusive for the town hall but rather that the whole golf sector should support an initiative that provides benefits for the city.
The Miami mayor told me that in beaches and natural landscapes we can’t compete with them but we can in one thing, golf, because he knows all about the quality of our courses and the advantage of a climate that enables golfers to play all year round. There is no hurricane season here like there is over there, and we also have superb weather in winter.
Right now, in mid-November, the temperature is around 20 degrees and a magnificent sun is shining, at the same time as the streets have been decorated with Christmas lights. And people are playing golf in short sleeves, and without being eaten by mosquitoes and having to avoid alligators, like over there!