When heading for the Costa del Sol the attractions of Malaga are maybe not the first thing that come to mind, but there is one sector of the tourism industry where the historic city is increasingly well known – the cruise industry.
Last year 444,000 cruise passengers stopped off in Malaga as part of their Mediterranean cruise – up 40,000 from two years previously, and numbers are projected to rise even further by the end of this year.
This is no accident. The city authorities have spent millions over the past few years on the old port so now cruise passengers are greeted by the up-market Muelle Uno quay, which is lined with smart restaurants and boutiques.
Its modern design gives a chic and glamorous air to the once run-down area, and is the perfect gateway to the historic charms of Malaga city. A roman amphitheatre, Moorish citadel, Renaissance streets and superb shopping facilities all await visitors. Add in the cultural charms of the Pompidou Centre art gallery (the first outside France) on Muelle Uno itself, and the Carmen Thyssen and Picasso museums in the historic centre amongst many others and it becomes clear why Malaga is such a popular stop amongst cruise passengers.
Indeed, during March it was the port to handle the second largest number of cruise passengers in Spain behind only Barcelona, although it is usually listed at number four. This could be set to change in the coming years, with the city expected to profit from hosting a prestigious cruise conference.
Called Seatrade Cruise Med, it is acknowledged to be the most important cruise-industry trade fair in the Mediterranean and will be in Malaga’s Palacio de Congresos in 2020.
The importance of the event can not be overestimated. Leaders from major world shipping companies, representatives of ports and delegates from related industries will all attend, giving Malaga the chance to sell itself to an industry worth billions every year.
Malaga port will hope other companies will follow the lead of major cruise operators such as Thomson Cruises, which has made the capital of the Costa del Sol the homeport for the impressive 1,800 capacity TUI Discovery 2.
It has been docking every Sunday in the city – with a major part of the reason is a scheme that allows 118 shops in the historic centre to stay open on Sundays and holidays, specifically to encourage cruise passengers to visit – and spend money — in the city.
In 2016, 59 cruise ships docked in the port on Sundays or holidays, discharging 135,853 passengers and providing a significant boost to the city’s economy.
The benefits of cruises are not limited to Malaga itself. Passengers charmed by their visit to the city, the climate, gastronomy and friendly people are increasingly searching for property for sale in Marbella, Malaga and along the entire Costa del Sol.