The building of golf courses was only one response to a growing demand for leisure facilities on the Costa del Sol. No longer were high-spending tourists satisfied with having a place to stay: they demanded something to do as well. Sophisticated discotheques opened up, casinos were built and quality shopping malls sprang up to cater to the everyday needs of both tourists and foreign residents. Theme parks were built, congress and convention halls, cultural centres and museums. Tourism began to edge into the interior of the province, with an ever-increasing demand for something different. The tourism-based real estate companies began to look towards the Serranía de Ronda in the west of the province - the Ronda mountain region - and the Axarquía in the east, and this interest extended into the Antequera and Guadalhorce Valley areas.
The Axarquía, the name of which bears the authentic stamp of a Moorish past, had actually begun its tourism industry decades earlier, stimulated by the discovery of the famous caves of Nerja in 1959, but its growth was not quite as spectacular as on the other side of Malaga City. This is now the very charm of the region, whose beautiful mountain villages and towns have escaped the negative impact of international tourism.
The Nerja Cave is, naturally, a magnificent and unique attraction in its own right, but it has also given birth to an international music and dance festival that is second to none. This, the International Nerja Cave Festival, takes place in the month of July every year, and has been doing so for the past 40 years, attracting top performers from all over the world to participate in it. Musical and dance styles range from classic to flamenco, and the festival is now one of the key dates on the Spanish cultural calendar.
With the building of the new highway from Malaga City some years ago, the Eastern Costa del Sol was given a new lease of life as far as tourism is concerned, and is now one of the most important tourism resources of the province of Malaga.
One of the reasons for the huge success of the tourism industry on the Costa del Sol, from those distant beginnings in Torremolinos to the cosmopolitan tourist region of today, has been its ability to adapt to changing taste and demand. We are now the premier tourist destination in Spain in visitor numbers (8.6 million in 2003), and have a hotel capacity for more than 70,000, with some 300 hotels in the region. The history of the Costa del Sol goes back many centuries, and the history of tourism on the Costa del Sol is still being written.