Marbella: History
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Marbella, the capital of the Costa del Sol, is positioned every year as one of the most important tourist destinations in Europe. It is currently recovering as a luxury destination, linking Marbella with highly relevant initiatives and congresses around luxury offerings.

  • luxury accommodation
  • tourism
  • sharing economy

1. Marbella as a Luxury Destination

Marbella, the capital of the Costa del Sol, is positioned every year as one of the most important tourist destinations in Europe. It is currently recovering as a luxury destination, linking Marbella with highly relevant initiatives and congresses around luxury offerings [25].
Laura de Arce, General Director of Tourism at the Marbella Town Hall, emphasizes the extensive range of luxury offerings available in Marbella, which are aimed at high-net-worth tourists. These offerings include five-star hotels, golf courses, establishments holding four Michelin stars, and more. In addition to these, Marbella provides access to complementary luxury services in exclusive areas such as Puerto Banús, which includes fashion outlets, yachts and boats, nightclubs, high-end vehicles, cosmetic surgery clinics, and significant real estate agencies [26].
Marbella, located in the province of Malaga, Spain, is a city full of history, gastronomy, whitewashed houses, and orange trees. It is a top destination for golf lovers, offering extraordinary views of the sea and mountains. The municipality boasts 26 km of coastline, four ports, important sports complexes, riding schools, tennis clubs, and incredible residential complexes [26].
According to the tourism website provided by the Marbella Town Hall, the municipality is a five-star destination with several certificates, including Best European Destination 2022, Most Exclusive Destination 2022, Safe Tourism Certified, Q of Touristic Quality, Smart Destination, Safe Travelers, Virtuoso Preferred Destination, and Traveler Made [27]. Marbella is a popular destination for wealthy tourists worldwide who are attracted by its sunny climate, exclusive resorts, fine dining, luxury shopping, and high-end entertainment. The tourism industry positioned Marbella as an internationally renowned destination in the 1970s and 1990s [28].
Marbella is considered a smart tourism destination in its initial phase, mainly adopting technological and sustainable strategies [29]. Although many tourist destinations are trying to implement technological solutions to address problems in cities, smart city research is still vital [30].
Several studies have examined the luxury tourism industry in Marbella and its impact on the local economy, environment, and society. Increasingly, property prices are higher, and there is a higher proportion of foreigners in the municipality, either to live or work [31].
One of the characteristics directly observed and mentioned by tourism agents was the tourist segmentation based on luxury tourism, golf tourism, shopping tourism, and sun and beach tourism, as well as the existence of luxury and grand luxury hotel chains [29]. In addition, Marbella is a tourist destination whose RevPar is among the highest in Spain [32].
Various studies have established a strong link between brand image and customer satisfaction. Therefore, it is crucial to implement strategies that enhance the customer’s perception of the brand image. Having an excellent brand image not only improves customer satisfaction but also has a positive impact on brand power [33].
According to a qualitative study by [34], in the context of Marbella, destination image, location, accessibility, and accommodations are crucial variables that influence the choice of an event. Events are essential in promoting and enhancing brand power [35]. Furthermore, previous research on tourist satisfaction in Marbella has highlighted the importance of factors such as climate, safety, and quality of hotel services in shaping the overall experience of the tourist [36].
Overall, the luxury tourism industry in Marbella has important economic, social, and cultural implications. While luxury tourism can bring significant economic benefits, it is important to ensure that it is sustainable and responsible in order to minimize its negative impact on the environment and local culture. Future research can explore the impact of luxury tourism on specific sectors of the local economy, such as real estate and retail, and examine the effectiveness of sustainable tourism practices in Marbella.
Complementary services related to luxury help increase experiential enjoyment and symbolic value, hence the importance of the destination, in this case Marbella, offering an extra product that accompanies the accommodation [13,37].
The tourist relevance acquired by Marbella has improved other sectors directly related to leisure and luxury, especially golf courses, marinas, and cosmetic surgeries, as shows (Table 1). According to the data provided by the Marbella City Council, luxury is the segment that reigns over tourism companies in the municipality thanks to the 70 luxury firms in Puerto Banús and El Corte Inglés, luxury real estate, boats, yachts, and high-end car rental.
Table 1. Offer of tourist companies in Marbella according to typology.
Tourism Companies Tourism Companies
Shopping companies (centers and shop with fashion brands) 41 MICE (congress venues, hostesses, services for congress, translators, catering) 69
Culture (historical heritage, antique dealers, art workshops, art galleries and museums) 84 Sports (riding centers, gyms, tennis and paddle clubs) 47
Gastronomy (Michelin stars, wine bars, large capacity rests and delicatessens) 70 Sea (beaches, marinas and nautical activities) 48
Shows (night, family entertainment, parks and gardens) 62 Health (spa centers, aesthetic clinics, physiotherapists, hospitals and clinics) 89
Golf (courses, shops, academies and schools, equipment hire) 32    
Source: [27] Own elaboration.
It is not surprising that luxury is a significant segment in Marbella’s tourism industry, considering the various high-end offerings available in the municipality.
Table 1 presents data on the economic impact of luxury tourism on sectors such as golf courses, marinas, and cosmetic surgeries. Golf courses, in particular, are a significant attraction in Marbella, given its excellent climate and terrain. There are many golf courses in Marbella, and it is known as one of the best golfing destinations in Europe.
Marinas are another essential sector that has benefited from luxury tourism in Marbella. The municipality has four ports, including Puerto Banús, which is one of the most exclusive marinas in the world. It is a popular destination for luxury yachts and boats, and it is also an excellent place to shop, dine, and party.
Finally, cosmetic surgeries have also become a popular service among wealthy tourists in Marbella.
Overall, luxury tourism has had a significant impact on various sectors in Marbella, including those directly related to leisure and luxury, such as golf courses, marinas, and cosmetic surgeries.

2. Luxury Holiday Homes in Marbella

The luxury segment in the accommodation sector has experienced strong growth over the last ten years, and this growth is expected to continue in the coming years with a higher occupancy rate [38].
In reference to Marbella as a luxury destination, there are various criteria since it can be beneficial or detrimental to the municipality. Marbella is one of the main luxury vacation spots in Spain due to its high RevPAR in 2019 with an average of EUR 130, transforming from a small town to a large tourist destination [37]. Its numerous beaches, golf courses, ports, sports activities, gastronomy, incredible Michelin-starred restaurants, and climate make this destination a luxury destination [39].
In recent years, the number of accommodation places in Marbella has grown by more than 200%, which is a clear positive evolution that the pandemic has been unable to stop [40]. Currently, the city has an accommodation offer that amounts to 8621 establishments with 77,905 beds [41]. In the previous year, Marbella represented 16.40% of the accommodation offered in the province of Malaga with 17.30% of its beds; and in Andalusia, it occupied 8.46% of establishments and 7.55% of places [40].
As seen in Table 2 and Figure 1, housing for tourist purposes is the modality that is gaining the most relevance in this destination, with more than twice as many hotel establishments and places. The number of houses for tourist purposes and their places is growing at a high rate in Marbella, surpassing the number of establishments and hotel places, hence the importance of analyzing various issues related to this new type of accommodation.
Figure 1. Supply of tourist places in Marbella according to typology. Source: [41] Own elaboration.
Table 2. Supply of tourist establishments in Marbella according to typology (2021).
Types of Establishments Number
Tourist Accommodation 8.425
Hotel Establishments 106
Tourist Flats 87
Tourist Camps 3
Total Establishments 8.621
Source: [41] Own elaboration.
According to [42], housing for tourist purposes (HTP) is accommodation located in buildings situated on land for residential use, where the accommodation service will be offered for a price in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia, on a regular basis, and for tourist purposes.
It may also be a house in which the owner is the proprietor of the activity and rents it in its entirety to third parties on a temporary basis regardless of the number of days [43].
Figure 2 shows the large number of points corresponding to all existing HTPs in the center of the Western Costa del Sol, comprising a total of 8425 dwellings. From all these data, the prestige of this type of establishment is already understood, which is why it is necessary to investigate and work more on it, emphasizing luxury villas, which are the main reason for this research.
Figure 2. Map of holiday homes in Marbella. Source: [44].
According to [45], in tourist apartment establishments, these units can be villas, chalets, apartments, bungalows, or similar properties. Thanks to the study and analysis carried out in this research, the type of tourist housing belonging to the most demanded luxury sector in the area is the so-called villa or chalet.
Experiences that are based on services, which are intangible, are very difficult to evaluate. It can be measured by combining the characteristics of the product and those of the service, such as the physical environment, the appearance of the employees, the equipment, and the decoration, and valuing the invisible through the interaction between the host and the guest, generating emotions and high expectations for the traveler, to achieve a more functional and symbolic luxury [11].
The definition of luxury can be characterized in the home in tangible aspects, such as the facilities, environment, appliances, furniture, floor, and walls, and even intangibles, such as exclusivity, desire, sumptuousness, and exquisiteness. Therefore, the concept of luxury is formed by both physical and emotional elements [10].
The idea of a luxurious villa has been changing over the years. In the 21st century, the concept of the luxury villa was shaped in several ways: as a place where architectural simplicity and simplicity predominate, without excessive adornments, where the guest can live a more authentic experience [10]. The true elite, luxury guests look for less populated places; they opt for private property and rigorously guarded areas beyond the reach of others, reinforcing the symbolic power of luxury travel, requiring social status and the privilege to experience a trip in another way [18].

5. Collaborative Economy

The growth of the phenomenon of tourist housing cannot be understood without the appearance of the so-called collaborative economy or sharing economy. The collaborative economy occurs when there is an exchange of goods and/or services in exchange for a price. We are immersed in the digital world, so we have to take advantage of new technologies to buy, sell, or rent these material or immaterial goods, that is, to satisfy our needs and desires [46]. The concept of the sharing economy encompasses two other definitions necessary for the existence of this new business model: the temporary use of goods and services by non-owners and, above all, Web 2.0 [47,48,49].
The collaborative economy involves the development of the social economy in which intermediaries are eliminated and only direct relationships between consumers and companies exist, using online platforms as support. In other words, it is a new business model produced around the digital world on the Internet, creating an online market [50,51,52].
This concept is applied to multiple economic sectors, such as education, health, or logistics. However, it is the tourism sector that is being most favored by this new type of business-to-business exchange, including, as far as we are concerned, collaborative accommodation [50,53].
There are various platforms dedicated to collaborative tourism. However, the most used by owners and companies dedicated to vacation rental management is Airbnb (Air bed and breakfast), which is why this platform has been chosen for this analysis. It has a usage rate of 54%, followed by Vrbo with a 20% rate and others with a 26% rate. Marbella is the municipality that obtained the most income from the Airbnb platform in 2019 of all the tourist points in Andalusia: around EUR 75 million [29].
Airbnb was founded in 2007 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia when they welcomed three guests to their San Francisco apartment. Years later, the Airbnb Plus program was incorporated.
These latest changes made by the platform aim to adopt more professional and luxury-oriented accommodation standards, encouraging hosts to host competing practices against high-end hotels [11].
Currently, Airbnb Luxe has been introduced with the intention of offering luxury experiences with tailor-made trips, allowing travelers to discover different destinations in a more authentic way [55].
The Airbnb Plus modality allows the selection of higher-quality accommodations, verified by an inspection, with excellent evaluations of hosts, who are called superhosts in this section [56].
The tourist property that obtains the most positive evaluations and the fewest number of cancellations is considered a superhost, hence the importance of interviewing them. It should be underlined that being an Airbnb host is not easy. It can be said that it is a business subject, that is, it entails being in charge of the entire production process: providing space, creating and managing the offer of its accommodation, giving it value, increasing its competition, carrying out marketing strategies, etc. In short, it requires organizing all the activities well to make a profit [57].
Airbnb Luxe and Luxury Retreats is the new category that offers unique services. It was developed in 2017 after the travel experience that Luxury Retreats offered to the platform. It has more than 2000 premium accommodations with exceptional features. It is a platform where incredible accommodations are found around the world, which are designed by experts in high-end services. In addition, they offer a trip designer who is in charge of seeing that everything is in order. Not just any accommodation can be published on this platform; there must be an inspection and verification that the villas are in good condition. Some of the extra-exclusive services that can be found are chefs, drivers, childcare services, butlers, and massage therapists.
In the luxury sector, the interactions that the host of the tourist village must have with the traveler is very important. Absolute commitment is needed in order to exceed customer expectations, to take immediate action in case of complaints or problems, and to ensure satisfaction, that is, to do whatever it takes to obtain complete guest satisfaction: this is luxury. This type of behavior in the luxury tourism industry is recognized in one study [58] as “empowered behavior”, which reflects initiative, creativity, and total responsibility to increase customer satisfaction.
The introduction of the new luxury Airbnb project provokes the hosts belonging to this community to renew their properties, going from being basic to more authentic. This platform offers villa owners detailed suggestions on how to turn a home into an extraordinary five-star villa. However, each host builds the meaning of luxury around their home differently [10].
The competition is increasing, since nowadays, people travel more and more; they know about different types of accommodations, which gives rise to comparisons between them. It must be taken into account that a tourist villa and a luxury hotel do not offer the same services, so it may be more expensive to compete with different accommodations since they have different characteristics: in a villa, the guest obtains an exclusive and personalized service, in a luxury hotel, there are more guests and attention is distributed, hence the importance of meeting or even exceeding guest expectations [59].
The premium quality of villas is characterized by a range of unique features that result in a higher demand and subsequently a higher price. These features include higher quality facilities and services as well as a high level of interaction and commitment to the guest’s needs to ensure they feel at home [60]. Furthermore, there exist various hypotheses which can influence rental prices, as indicated below [47]. For example, having a superhost status on Airbnb, receiving high ratings and a large number of comments can significantly increase the price per night of the villa.
In addition, the location of the villa plays a crucial role in determining the rental price. The weather can also strongly affect the pricing strategy along with the accessibility to various amenities such as those in the neighborhood. Although social aspects such as ethnicity or politics may not seem to impact prices, they can significantly affect price variations. The presence of other nearby villas can also result in price competition, and the increase in the number of villas intended for tourist use can have a significant impact on the rise in prices per night, as observed in the highly touristic areas of Marbella. In short, the communication between host and guest to maximize trust so that the client obtains the greatest possible satisfaction can be considered a peculiarity of luxury service [11].
According to the study carried out on Airbnb hosts by [11], luxury consists of many large and small details that they should be aware of. Some of them would be the accessories of the villa, such as high-quality white bedding, crystal tableware, and brand-name shampoos, gels, and creams; the furniture, such as marble countertops and floors; and access to streaming services such as Netflix and cutting-edge technology such as artificial intelligence. This is in addition to the immaterial, such as cleanliness, comfort, privacy and security. Luxury must encompass accommodating for and providing the unexpected so that the client feels totally surprised.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/jtaer18020052

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