The Changing Face of the Costa del Sol

By: Ruth Polak
The Costa del Sol experienced its first rush of popularity with British holidaymakers in the 1960?s with the advent of the "package holiday.

" The intoxicating mix of guaranteed sunshine, cheap beer, safe, sandy beaches combined with the opportunity to go abroad for the first time in many people’s livesnot to mention to fly, was just too good to be resisted. Add to this the chanceto stay in a hotel instead of a boarding house in Blackpool and the resultwas a forgone conclusion with hoards of British holidaymakers burning themselveson the beaches by day and throwing up in the discos by night.

This love affair with package tours to the Costa del Sol continued unabatedfor nearly thirty years with holidaymakers sticking strictly to the coast,very rarely being seen to venture into the hinterland of Andalucia. Car Hire was not a consideration, after all nobody wanted to drive on the wrongside of the road. But then things started to change.

Eventually a few of the more enterprising visitors began to explore the countrysideand even began to take advantage of the incredibly cheap property prices as the locals,who for generations had eked out a poor living from the land, decided to sellup and live more comfortable lives in the pueblos.

Taking full advantage of the lack of building regulations it was possible to build your dream house on a fantastic sunny hillside surrounded by peace, tranquillity and nature with some stunning views thrown in, at a fraction of the cost of a similar property back home in dreary old blighty.

Once these homes were completed and the coffers running a bit low these enterprisingindividuals started to look around for ways to replenish them.

Realizing that therewere plenty of Brits who did not belong to the sun, sea and sangria brigade but who expected from their holidays rest, relaxation, the chance to recharge their batteries and experience something of the true nature of Spain theydecided to open up their homes and thus rural tourism in Spain was born.

Rustic villas in the most idyllic settings imaginable were rented out to eager tourists wanting to get away from it all and experience the "real Spain.

"What a revelation this was. To be able to rent a beautiful property with apool surrounded by nothing but nature and perhaps a few goats. The peace, the sunshine-it was a winning combination.

For a few years these pioneers had the stage to themselves but it did not take long for the developers to catch on and move in.

Apartments on the coast started to go up at a rate of knots with the nextstage in the Costa del Sol tourist industry being residential tourism.

Mortgages with very favourable interest rates were offered to foreignersfor the first time and it became increasingly easy for EU nationals to reside in Spain. Pensions could be paid into Spanish banks and the healthcare on offer was deemed to be as good, if not better, than back in the U.K.

The result was the purchase of thousands of second homes on the Costa del Sol.

Some being bought with the intention of renting as holidaymakers makers began to have the confidence to move away from the security and all inclusivenessof the package tours and decided to go it alone by renting an apartment andshopping around on the "net" for cheap flights.

In tandem with this was the promotion of golf tourism with the construction ofmany first class golf courses and the renaming of the Costa del Sol to the Costa del Golf.

All this development has obviously bought incredible change to the area, some of it good and some of it bad. The roads and all infrastructure have improvedbeyond bounds. There are many more and varied attractions for visitors now from 2 fabulous aqua parks, to Selwo wildlife Park and Selwo Marina,The Picasso Museum, MijasRace Course, Sea World, the list goes on. The town’s and city’s streets and parksare always beautifully kept with exotic plants and plenty of colour. The originalattraction, the beaches, have not been left out either as many of them now have lovelylong, clean promenades, they are all kept immaculate and have their shareof coveted blue flags.

And so the Brits. love a fair with Spain continues unabated and for very good reason.

The Spanish are a friendly, obliging nation, we get on well together withno underlying historical frictions. The weather is reliable, the language notdifficult, the cost of living still reasonable and the distance from home and the cost of travel quite acceptable. To make things even more attractivethe recent modernizing and up grading of the Costa del Sol has resulted insome very attractive and luxurious developments, albeit perhaps one or two too many,along with much improved town planning, banking, shopping and all general facilities.

Foreign and national and EU investment in the area has made all this possibleand it not only has much to offer all types of tourists but also the many foreignresidents who have chose to make it their second home.

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