By Sam Watson
22 Dec 2023
As the old adage goes, it’s better to under promise and over deliver, which is difficult in an industry where expectations are always high. But now and then, when you think you’ve seen it all, something or someone can still surprise you. Such is the story of Málaga on the Costa del Sol, which is hardly off the beaten track, but the many layers of this magnificent onion are only now being discovered by the yachting community.
Speaking with Alejandra Cruces, General Manager at IGY Málaga Marina, we take a closer look at what’s on offer in Málaga and why the word is fast spreading among superyacht captains and crew.
Málaga recently topped the list of best places to live and work in a survey published by InterNations – you must be thrilled?
Yes, InterNations is the largest global community for expats and it has just released its annual Expat City Ranking which names Málaga as the best place to live and work in 2023!
It’s easy to take these things for granted when you live here, but it’s one of the oldest cities in the world with a rich history, warm year-round climate, great food, and a vibrant art scene – Picasso was born here. Málaga also ranked number one for local friendliness, and was recognised for its safety, affordable public transport, numerous recreational sports, and vibrant social life.
Spain was in fact a big winner all round with five cities in the top 20 – Alicante and Valencia were ranked second and third respectively. Madrid was ranked sixth and Barcelona came in at 13.
Are you seeing a corresponding rise in interest among the yachting community at IGY Málaga Marina?
Yes, we have had a great end to the season in terms of the number of yachts coming to the marina, including many that had never been here before and didn’t know anything about Málaga. Twice over the winter, there was a spell of bad weather in the Med and a number of yachts that were in the area on their way to start the crossing were forced to shelter in the marina and for them it was a revelation. Most of them didn’t even know the marina existed!
I was a little concerned that they would be experiencing the marina for the first time with bad weather, as it is really unusual, but a couple of days later the sun came back again and they were amazed. Many of them delayed their crossing to discover our city and left saying they were excited to return when crossing back next year. Word of mouth is very important in the yachting community, and in the end the bad weather actually worked in our favour!
What sorts of questions or observations do you receive from captains and owners?
Initially we are asked about the availability of berths and rates, as you would expect, but recently we introduced our in-water maintenance and repair program and some of the feedback has been very interesting. One very large yacht was carrying out works in the marina and the captain queried our rates for lubricants – we discovered that they are significantly lower than many other ports in the region, which we weren’t aware of. Obviously, we don’t compete on fuel as Gibraltar is not far away to the west, but the costs savings we offer to the yachts for lubricants is significant.
For yachts crossing east or west needing to conduct light maintenance and repair works, IGY Málaga Marina is very well situated. We can facilitate access to skilled contractors, or captains can work with their own – Málaga airport is only a short drive away. Either way, under TPA, non-EU flagged vessels are exempt from the usual 21% VAT on labour and equipment, so the potential savings are considerable.
Another advantage of undertaking works here in Málaga is the favourable climate all year round – everything also dries faster so they can do more in less time!
What sorts of activities can crew look forward to when they’re in town?
Málaga is a great place for crew members; we get really positive feedback from those who have stayed with us. In particular, they tell us that they feel very safe walking around the city. It’s nice to hear that female crew in particular feel comfortable and don’t feel the need to be accompanied to and from the boat.
We’re in touch with the boats as soon as they arrive, so we speak to the captains and let them know what’s available depending on what the crew want to do while they’re here.
The marina is right next to the commercial centre and there is always something going on in the city centre too – there are plenty of great restaurants, and food and drinks are very affordable. Windsurfing and kite surfing are also popular activities in Málaga and crew can go skiing in the mountains just an hour and a half away. We’ve also started organising activities such as wine tastings and beer tastings, as well as trips to shows and concerts.
More recently we’ve started to connect the boats directly – since they arrive solo we thought it would be nice to introduce the crews on other vessels in the marina. It’s proving to be very popular as they really enjoy the opportunity to meet up and socialise with a different crowd.
It’s certainly true that they don’t expect what they find here; they don’t believe it until they see it for themselves. The captain I mentioned who ended up staying with us for three weeks came to see me the night before the boat was leaving and he said: “You know you have a big problem here in Málaga? Because when crew members realise what you have here, they are not going to want to go anywhere else!”