Our reason for visiting Andalusia was the MPI conference taking place in Malaga. My first association is the Costa del Sol, a holiday paradise for numerous Northern Europeans who have been flocking to this part of Europe for the last 50 years thanks to the sun. Malaga is famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. The city was founded in the 8th century BC by the Phoenicians. It was an important Roman post and strongly characterised by the Arab Nasrid dynasty, which constructed the Alcazaba fortress in the 9th century that still dominates the city. Today, Malaga is a modern city with over 1.2 million residents including its suburbs. The locals like to refer to it as the economic and technological capital of Andalusia and the tourist capital of Europe.
The sun gives character to the meetings industry. There is an interesting comparison between Andalusia and California in one of the tourist brochures. Except from our arrival however, we waited for all three days of the conference in vain for the promised 325 days of sun. We were followed by the unpleasant Sirocco wind and heavy rain showers that turned the streets into slides.
Our arrival at Malaga airport in the low season showed the tourist character of the city, which is the main tourist entry point for the Costa del Sol. The terminals were low-season-desolate and characterised by over an hour-long wait for our luggage. With regard to traffic, the airport is Spain’s fourth largest airport. Immediately after leaving the terminal, we were greeted by a lot of light and sun and the greenest nature. The entrance into the city is not the friendliest, as Malaga is also one of the most developed industrial cities in Spain. The Mediterranean leisureliness is evident with every step you take and there are individual architectural accomplishments that surprise you along the way. During peak traffic, you need to allow a lot of time to move across the city, as it takes at least half an hour to get from the city centre to the congress centre.
In 2003, Malaga laid out an ambitions strategic plan to make it one of the Mediterranean convention capitals. As part of their marketing strategy, they managed to attract SITE, ICCA and MPI conferences in a relatively short time. The city is one of pilot cities in terms of sustainable development.
In addition to large infrastructure projects, the first result was the new Malaga Trade Fair & Congress Centre, which also hosted the conference. The Centre is located in the suburbs of Malaga, which are characterised by typical Mediterranean apartment blocks, shopping centres and industrial facilities. You are immediately enraptured by the modern architecture and its monumentality. The centre is dimensioned according to market size and contains two large exhibition halls with a joint surface area of 16,800 m2, two plenary halls with a capacity of 900 and 600 seats and a number of smaller halls for convention groups, journalists and registration activities. The centre has a pleasant feeling to it, perhaps the only colder exception is the otherwise wonderful marble floor. A special feature is the central square uniting the congress and exhibition parts of the centre and which serves to unite the content and participants.
The meetings offer is accompanied by numerous hotels. There are nine five-star hotels offering 1,049 rooms, while the majority of capacities are in four-star hotels (26 hotels and 3,219 rooms). Monte Malaga Hotel, where I stayed, is a classic business hotel. It is difficult to find any fault with it; the only thing missing was warmth and friendliness. The hotels’ environment is typically Spanish. The modern building emerges into a disorderly square and everywhere we turned, we were surrounded by empty construction sites as silent witnesses of the recession that hit Spain the hardest of all in Europe.
Malaga wakes up after 11 pm and is famous for its large number of restaurants, taverns and tapas bars. It is also an important Spanish wine-growing region and the culinary centre of Costa del Sol. Nightlife is one of the destination’s main attributes. There are special venues for the organisers to choose from and they also chose some for our event. From the Alcazaba fortress to numerous museums. We again experienced the importance of having a Plan B. The final dinner, which was intended to be held in the bullfighting arena, turned into a not so pleasant party due to rain. The organisers set up a tent in the middle of the wonderful arena, stripping away it its experience value. The wonderful programme provided by the Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra was ruined by some disastrous food. Our tastes were improved though by the Fabba band and the Song Division rock ‘n’ roll team motivators, who surprised us with rock teambuilding even during the conference itself.
5 excellent convention destination
4 quality convention destination
3 recommendable convention destination
2 average convention destination
Comparison with the region:
The Malaga Congress Centre is an excellent comparison for the development of Adriatic convention destinations from Portorož to Dubrovnik – both in terms of developing a convention destination and the development of a new congress centre. The first condition for successful development is the city’s accessibility (91 direct flights from Europe and Africa to Malaga), developed basic tourist infrastructure (over 4,000 hotel rooms), off-board offer and the good operation of the convention bureau.
More information on: www.congresos.malaga.eu