by Ayah Shurbaji
THE drop in the number of regular visiting tourists from Arabian countries has hit Marbella’s economy hard.
The luxurious city of located on the Costa del Sol is a major tourist destination for Arabic tourists from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.
But this year most middle eastern countries have restricted travel due to COVID-19, preventing them from vacationing and conducting business.
The sun-kissed city relies on the big spending power of its Arabian guests, who love the allure of the area.
So much so, that many have made Marbella their second home and acquired an intimate knowledge of the bustling city’s streets and picturesque squares, seafront and up-market Puerto Banus.
This summer Marbella has hosted a different crowd of tourists – a lot of locals from different areas of Spain and tourists from Northern Europe, but the numbers are yet to match those of previous years.
Sonya, manager of the luxury brand Versace in Puerto Banus, Spoke to the Olive Press about the lack of tourists. She said: “There is a big difference from last year, the general traffic in Puerto Banus is approximately 80% less than it normally is, our sales are not like the year before.”
A spokesman of the Puente Romano Hotel, added: “We have to refocus on a different market. The Spanish tourism market has decreased and we are missing our most valuable clients from the Middle East. We remain positive as the situation is not too bad. We did receive tourists from different parts of Spain as well as Northern Europeans.”
Another group affected by the COVID-19 are the Middle Eastern residents of Marbella who could not return to their homes.
Majid, a Saudi resident in Marbella, left with his wife to see his family back home for a few weeks and was not able to return. He said: “Not having the freedom to travel is frustrating, we miss Marbella, our friends and our dogs that we have not seen since March.”
The real estate sector has also encountered a decline following the absence of Middle Eastern investors and tourists that usually rent out or buy luxury houses.
Spain is taking measures to keep the overall situation under control and safe for tourism and residents and are trying to improve the general economic crisis that hit the globe after COVID-19.