Interview with the Mayor of Marbella, Jose Bernal
–You are now going to be mayor of a city such as Marbella for at least four years now. In order to achieve this, you have had to resort to dialog and consensus with other political parties. How has this process turned out, and how is it getting on?
We are heavily involved in a new political era, a period where we now need to achieve agreements between the various parties for everyone’s sake. In this sense I believe that Marbella is a clear example of politics where dialog and consensus are of utmost importance.
We parties that previously formed the opposition, PSOE, IU and OSP, with the extra support from Costa del Sol Sí Puede, have now taken on the role of government and I do believe that the results are positive. We are bringing a breath of fresh air to government with proposals that will greatly benefit the city.
–How is this city recovering from the enormous damage caused in the past?
Since we arrived at the Town Hall, eight months ago, we have undertaken measures to normalise the democratic process, to provide transparency and teamwork, paying particular attention to key issues such as the efficiency of the public sector, employment and social issues.
We have also renewed promotional activities on both a national and an international scale with significant proposals such as participating in the recent editions of Fitur and the ITB of Berlin, with our own stand.
This is serious work, to readjust and recover from a model of government when we found ourselves faced with the various problems that we inherited. But I believe that this format is now bearing fruit and we will continue along this path during the next few years to ensure that Marbella will become a model city.
– One of the themes that has concerned investors most is the cancellation of the General Plan for Town Planning (PGOU) which had legalised thousands of properties. What is the present situation and what assurance can you give to all those who have chosen to invest in Marbella?
The Town Hall has been working from the very beginning with the Junta de Andalusia to provide the city with a definite Town Planning programme since the cancellation of the PGOU of 2010 by the Supreme Tribune.
At the moment we are in the process of adapting the PGOU of 1986 to the Law of Town Planning of Andalusia (LOUA) as a transitional formula in order to provide assurance to the city’s planning progress up to the approval of the new programme.
On a parallel scale, we have already initiated the procedure for the creation of a new General Plan which includes the creation of tender documents by that body’s team of writers. It is a necessary step in order for Marbella to obtain a planning system that will improve the existing 86 version and will bring us closer to the model city that we are aiming for.
I can add that so far this year the value of projects applying for licences is more that 8.5 million Euros, a statistic that emphasises the city’s economic potential.
– You have stated that no investment will leave this city since the Town Hall will provide businesses with all possible facilities. What processes is the Town Hall undertaking in this area?
We have initiated a whole series of steps in order to provide a flexible and efficient solution to the town planning situation that has developed since the cancellation of the Plan. We have created a document that has been approved by the Local Government Board which clarifies the progress of each building project and which can be consulted on the Local Government’s website.
We have also created an office for both the physical and virtual public with contact address and a series of Frequently Asked Questions and their Answers. We are also in the process of digitalising the PGOU of 86 and we have requested information from the Legal Department in order to clarify certain sentences. The Town Hall is obliged to offer the public all necessary guarantees, both to businesses and to individuals, with regard to the new scenario in which we find ourselves.
To strengthen the luxury tourist sector and the city’s image, and to confront one of the most important problems of the local government, which is the seasonal nature of tourism, these are what the Town Hall has promised. What measures are being taken to achieve this?
The new Town Hall Team for the promotion of tourism is clear. Fitur and the ITB of Berlin were the first big exhibitions where we have advertised our presence with our own stand, but they will not be the last. We will be present in all the main international tourist events to present our new image and the theme “Marbella, a Five Star Destination”.
This new image strengthens and illustrates our main tourist assets: nature, gastronomy, golf, beaches and luxury shopping. It sums up perfectly the assets of our city, the attractions which have turned Marbella into a first class tourist destination. Furthermore, the investment in the promotion of tourism in the 2016 budget is 500,000 Euros, which is much greater than in previous years.
According to the statistics of the Spanish Luxury Association (Asociación Española del Lujo), Marbella was at the top of the national list of 2015 with a turnover in this sector of nearly 1,564 million Euros. This figure accounts for a third of the national amount (27.5%) recorded by the tourist industry and which amounted to more than 5,600 million Euros.
The annual barometer of Exceltur also provides very positive figures since the profitability of the tourist sector grew by 18.6% in 2015, by 27.5% for hospitality and by 11% for employment in the tourist sector. We must stress that Marbella is the city in Andalusia with the largest amount of 5 star and Luxury Hotels, and last year it was the holiday destination where high class establishments registered a greater increase in relation to the previous year, by 16.3%.
We are aware of the need to improve this sector in order to generate wealth, work and employment, and, of course, to counteract the seasonal nature of tourism.
Marbella has had a stand at Fitur for the first time. What was the result?
The result was absolutely satisfactory. The stand made numerous presentations and held more than fifty workshops. There were meetings with the directors of Turespaña of London, Paris and Berlin and with the executives of tour operators, hospitality establishments and media groups such as Atresmedia.
The economic impact of the media has been 150,000 Euros. The presentation of the new tourist image of Marbella in the Traje Museum Exhibition was attended by about 40 representatives of the various branches of the media. There was also a high diffusion in social networks with more than 40,000 posts on Facebook, and 578 re-tweets and 471 favourites in Twitter during the entire Exhibition.
I am a lover of art and cultura. What degree of importance will your government give to this sector?
All the importance that this sector, which we consider to be of great importance, deserves. We are supporting the culture programme with proposals for all types of Public. This month we have initiated “The Theatre Lives” with workshops, micro-theatre, musicals, comedy, classics and childrens’ programmes.
We also intend to improve the infrastructure for culture. The Town Hall has initiated the project to extend the Museum of Contemporary Spanish Engravings, it will transform the building of the Sugar Factory of El Ingenio to a huge Centre for Scenic Art and it has also programmed a series of improvements in the installation of the OAL Art and Culture of San Pedro. Culture is a priority for this Government’s team, and we are proving it.
What message would you give to businesses who have committed themselves to Marbella during the last ten years, such as LuxuryForSale.Properties Realty, and which are still here after having made great efforts and having witnessed various periods of crisis?
A clear message, of tranquillity and confidence. Marbella continues to be an international destination that is completely consolidated and all the statistics suggest that it is on the path to economic recovery. The city has the potential to continue to grow and the Town Hall Board of Executives is working hard to ensure that it continues to generate wealth.