Spain: The sunshine coast

The Costa's del Sol's C&I figures are almost as bright as its blue skies, plus an insight into C&I developments across the country

Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona
Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona

6km is the full length of what is known as Marbella's Golden Mile - the Costa del Sol's most buzzing section of coastline, running between Marbella city and Puerto Banus Harbour. Out of the total 2,400 restaurants in Malaga and Costa del Sol, 314 of them have made their home along this stretch of beach, which is also home to a number of five-star luxury resorts including, the Gran Melia Don Pepe hotel and the Hotel Don Carlos, both of which are popular with C&I groups.

10% Costa del Sol welcomed more than 9.5 million visitors in 2007, an increase of 2.73 per cent on the previous year. 2007 also marked a ten per cent increase in the number of conferences held in Malaga, as well as a 20 per cent increase in the number of attendees at those events. "This sector is growing year by year, and we're constantly building new convention centres," says Valentina Beteta, incentives and congresses executive at the Spanish Tourist Office in London. "The UK is a very big market for us and we're focusing various marketing efforts on the business sector, for both incentives and congress travel, including fam trips with different activities such as adventure sports or wildlife and outdoor trips," she adds.

2,690 The Fairs and Congress Palace of Malaga hosted more than 150 events as well as 20 fairs in 2007. The flagship construction was completed in 2003 and offers two auditoria and two conference halls, with a total capacity for 2,690 delegates. The venue attracted a total of 62,979 delegates to events in 2007 and 739,081 visitors to trade fairs. Other large venues include the Costa del Sol Congress and Expositions Palace, which has three auditoria and 13 meetings halls, and the Estepona Congress and Expositions Palace, which has a conference hall for 250 delegates.

15 There are 15 five-star properties to be found in the region, all of which have conference and convention facilities. One such is the Hotel Castillo de Santa Catalina. "We organise approximately 200 events a year, half of which are C&I events," says director Monique Fennes. "The Costa del Sol has excellent logistics, climate and services. The beautiful views and our location five minutes from the centre of Malaga and just 20 minutes from the airport have proven popular with UK clients."

22degC The average annual temperature in the Costa del Sol is 22degC, bolstered by an average of 326 days of sunshine a year, making the region ideal for outdoor incentive activities. "The 'work hard-play hard' combination of business with leisure has proved very popular with UK clients," says Marc Franken, managing director of Travelmasters, a Marbella-based DMC. "Clients like serious business sessions mixed with golf, beach, spas, cultural visits and shopping. There's also a great variety of venues - for example, the contrast between jet-setting coastal Marbella and Puerto Banus and the whitewashed villages inland."

50 The region is a golfer's paradise and with more than 50 courses to choose from, it is no surprise that the alternative moniker for the region is the Costa del Golf, and the game is a leisure stalwart for many C&I trips. At the top end, there are renowned courses by leading course designers such as the legendary Valderrama and the San Roque Club, but there are many lesser-known but excellent facilities around. The Sotogrande Real Golf Club was the first European course to be designed by Robert Trent Jones; El Paraiso is designed by one of the game's legends Gary Player and is reputed to have the best greens on the Costa; while the Dave Thomas-designed Marbella Club Golf Resort offers a testing challenge offset by rewarding views of the sea and mountains.

REGIONAL REVISIONS
Perennial C&I favourite Spain is keeping on top of its game with a host of developments. In the south, the picturesque Andalucian 'white village' of Casares is leading the charge with the opening of the five-star deluxe Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa. The 67-room property's event spaces include the Grand Meeting Room, with capacity for 300, and nearly six acres of outdoor space. Also new to Casares is the Dona Julia Golf Resort, which will offer three courses and two hotels, including the luxury Park Hyatt Casares, which opens next year.

The whole region is set to benefit from the expansion of Malaga's airport. By 2010, it will be able to handle 20 million passengers. Further to the west on the Costa de la Luz, the £27m, 234-room Elba Costa Ballena Hotel has opened, offering an 18-hole golf course and spa.

Heading north to Murcia, the Intercontinental Hotels Group is opening a five-star luxury hotel at La Torre Golf Resort this December. Along with1,080m2 of meeting space, it will also have an 18-hole golf course. In Alicante, a 19th-century farmhouse has been converted into an 18-room design hotel. La Romana Hotel & Spa's original winery is available for private events.

Established C&I favourite Barcelona is continuing to develop C&I-friendly infrastructure. Principal Hayley chose Barcelona for the site of one of its first venues in Europe. La Mola, near Barcelona, next to the St Llorenc de Munt national park, is a purpose-built venue offering 186 four-star rooms and a spa, as well as 26 meeting spaces. It is located next to the Royal Golf Club, which offers two 18-hole and one nine-hole golf course. The 230-room Le Meridien Barcelona recently added a Salon Lounge dedicated to banquets and meetings with capacity for up to 230 guests as part of a £23m renovation programme. The Rambla property also now offers the Espai Barcelona – a 238m2 event space that can be divided into five meeting rooms.

Elsewhere in the city, the new four-star Hesperia Sagrada Familia Sport & Spa Hotel offers a 7,000m2 health centre. And W Hotels plans to open its first European hotel in Barcelona in September next year. The 473-room property will be located at the new entrance to the Port of Barcelona.

In the capital, the 480-room Eurostars Madrid Tower 5* is set to open. It will Madrid's tallest hotel set in one of the buildings in the Cuatro Torres (Four Towers) Business Area, a new business estate on Castellana Avenue. It will offer more than 2,500m2 of event space, including a 1,760m2 hall. It is located in the same complex as the future City of Madrid ICC, which is anticipated to become the largest congress facility in Spain.

DIRECTORY SPAIN
Spanish Tourist Office
Contact Valentina Beteta, 020 7317 2029
Email Valentina.beteta@tourspain.es
Web www.tourspain.co.uk

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