Nobody could deny that Marbella has wrangled with a few ‘image problems’ over the last 20 years. The exclusive resort of the 1950s which brought the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, the Kennedys and Rothschilds flocking underwent a few changes of demographic in terms of visitor. Generally, they were not for the good. (Sincere apologies to any UK ex-pat plasterers, WAG (footballers’ wives and girlfriend) wannabes, or ex-convicts from Europe who may be reading this article).
Perhaps, like Katie Price after a vat of make-up remover, the real beauty of Marbella is once again emerging. Michelle Obama was one recent famous visitor to the capital of ‘Europe’s Florida’.
One of the primary players in the re-birthing has been José Luis Hernández, Head of the Marbella Tourist Office, brought in to clean up after the corruption scandal of 2006, and clean up he certainly has. It’s no exaggeration to say that you could eat your churros off the polished pavements of the picturesque old town and there is clear evidence that Marbella is once more in the ascendancy, reporting a 12 per cent increase in overnight stays last summer and the highest tourism figures for five years.
While leisure tourism is all well and good, more than ever, Marbella means business. ‘Marbella: Make a wish’ was the slogan under which the rebranding process was launched, so get your checklist out.
Ask anybody in the town: ‘Why Marbella?’ and their first response, at least those from Northern Europe, is usually: “The weather”, but, facile though this may seem, for overall motivational feel-good factor and break-out opportunities, a bit of blue sky and warm sunshine can’t be overestimated.
On the subject of incentive and teambuilding opportunities, Marbella spoils you for choice, 48 golf courses on the coast, all within a 30-minute drive, top-class spa facilities, 4×4 trips around the Sierra de las Nievas natural park, paragliding, jet-skiing, the list is long. For those preferring to venture round Luis Vuitton, Versace, D&G, Dior or Gucci, why not stroll around Puerto Banus, and sample the tapas and Rioja too.
Culture and history aplenty are also to be found in the old town, with Plaza de los Naranjos at its heart. There is a (very) Moorish fort and Roman remains.
Marbella is accessible in under three hours from pretty much anywhere in Europe and low cost airline connections, cheap car hire and highly competitive accommodation rates are helping to make Marbella a stand-out choice where budget is a consideration.
Much investment has taken place over the last couple of years. The five-star Puento Romano and the Gran Melia Don Pepe hotels have smart meetings facilities, as do the re-opened Los Monteros and the Congress Centre Incosol Hotel.
There are good conference facilities, also, in the Hotel Fuerte Marbella and Venue Vasari Resort.
The H10 Andalucia Plaza is a gem located opposite the Puerto Banús marina. Recently refurbished, the hotel has bright, avant-garde décor and offers nine function rooms, including the Castilla Suite, which seats 550 theatre-style. The hotel’s Despacio Spa Centre offers Turkish baths and treatments to help you unwind after that business meeting.
The Marbella Conference Centre is situated in the heart of town and has two large event areas, an upper 3,200sqm exhibition hall, a congress hall, three other conference rooms and six committee rooms.
Caught between the rock of Gibraltar and Malaga, Marbella is certainly not a hard place for conferencing.
The local conference bureau lists the town’s key attractions for delegates:
• Good accessibility. Nearby Malaga Airport is the third biggest international airport on the Spanish peninsula. Its Terminal 3 was inaugurated in March 2010.
• Excellent weather. Average temperatue is 15-20 degrees.
• The biggest concentration of five-star hotels in Spain
• The Costa del Sol is also known as the Costa del Golf, with more than 50 golf courses.
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