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Ángeles Muñoz, Mayor of Marbella, Source: Ayuntamiento de Marbella

Ángeles Muñoz: Now more than ever, public-private collaboration is essential to provide greater added value when we compare to other destinations

Ángeles Muñoz: Now more than ever, public-private collaboration is essential to provide greater added value when we compare to other destinations

Interview with the mayor of Marbella in Spain

Ángeles Muñoz was born in Cordoba and graduated from the University of Cordoba with a degree in medicine. She practised medicine until 1995 as a family doctor.

In that year she entered politics as a member of Partido Popular. In 2000 she was elected as an MP in the Spanish Congreso. She left that position in 2003 to concentrate on local governance in the city of Marbella becoming a councillor in that city and spokesperson for the Partido Popular branch there. In 2007 she was elected as a Mayor of Marbella, a position she has held since, with a two-year interruption in 2015-2017.

Mrs Mayor, how would you describe Marbella in your own words?

What can I say! Marbella is a unique city. It is an extraordinary destination to visit and to live in, but it is also an extraordinary destination to invest in.

Our spectacular climate, the quality of life, the richness of cultures, the excellent tourist offerings, the provision of infrastructures have made us a recognized and consolidated brand internationally. To those who do not know us yet, I would say that we await you with open arms. Thousands of different experiences await you in a five-star destination.

Speaking not only of your city but of the entire region, how has the tourist season in Costa del Sol been in 2020 and in your opinion what will next summer be like?

We cannot deny that 2020 has not been a good year. Nobody was prepared to face a health crisis of this size, unprecedented in history, which has hit all sectors and especially tourism. The number of visitors has suffered a significant decline both in our city and in the region as a whole, which fortunately has been partially offset by the strength of our residential sector.

Looking ahead to next summer, we trust that vaccinations will allow us to stay ahead of the coronavirus and begin to regain the long-awaited normalcy. Our goal is that, when that time comes, Marbella will be fully prepared with a stronger than ever and more excellent tourism sector and, above all, as a guarantee of the safe destination that we are.

Your city is always growing demographically. What kinds of challenges does this growth present and how is your administration dealing with them?

For any mayor, there is a sense of pride when more and more people choose their city as a place of residence. In fact, Marbella has just become the seventh most populated municipality in the Andalusia region thanks to the fact that the number of registered citizens has grown by 3 percent and currently stands at 147,633 people.

Of these, practically 30 percent, or a total of 40,745 are foreigners. During the pandemic, we have registered a significant increase in the number of foreigners who have registered domicile address here: 2723 people from the United Kingdom (with 938 more citizens), Russia (233), Italy (133), Colombia (135) and Germany (101).

But we know that our real population is significantly higher and it is essential to continue promoting initiatives so that we can see this reflected in the statistics, such as campaigns to encourage registration or the implementation of a mobility card that already allows free use of urban transport to registered citizens. It is vital to make our residents aware that a figure such as the official number of inhabitants translates into access to more funds for their city or in the provision of more police services or educational and school equipment.

The hospitality and construction sectors have traditionally been important to the local economy. How do you see your situation in 2021? Will there be help for them?

Our priority for this year, as it could not be otherwise, will be to start on the path to economic recovery. We have approved the most important budget in the history of our City Council, some accounts are committed to the social protection of the most vulnerable groups and to giving a boost to our economy.

To try and alleviate the negative effects of the pandemic, various lines have been articulated that will mobilize 7 million euros through an Economic Reactivation Plan for Local SMEs, which will carry out works in the municipality; 3.2 million euros to promote business initiatives or 2.2 million for direct support to hoteliers, freelancers and local companies. Likewise, important taxes such as Real Estate or Economic Activities will also be reduced.

How do you see the place of technology in the future development of Marbella?

We are aware that the future of tourist destinations depends on innovation. In Marbella, hand in hand with the private sector, we are working to get ahead of our competitors by promoting an ambitious plan to modernize the sector.

In this sense, we have taken a further step in the digitization of our tourism strategy with the implementation of a project based on artificial intelligence to be able to anticipate the behaviour of the markets. Now more than ever, public-private collaboration is essential to provide greater added value when we compare to other destinations.

TheMayor.EU is a portal for European cities. Do you have any advice for other Mediterranean municipalities that are in a similar situation to yours?

In this difficult situation that we are going through all the local institutions, what I would like above all is to send everyone a big hug and all my solidarity to ease the management of this enormous challenge we face. Now more than ever, it is essential that no citizen is left without the support of the administration closest to him, that no one is left behind. We know that it is complicated, that such a serious health crisis has never been experienced before, but I am convinced that we will succeed thanks to everyone's effort and solidarity.

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