British tourist dies and kills another man in Marbella balcony fall

A British tourist who fell from his hotel balcony on Saturday in the southern Spanish city of Marbella has died, landing on and killing a local businessman dining below.

British tourist dies and kills another man in Marbella balcony fall
Meliá Don Pepe Hotel in Marbella. Photo: Melía

The tragedy took place in the early hours of Saturday at Meliá Don Pepe Hotel in Marbella when a fifty-year-old British tourist fell from the balcony in his room on the seventh floor.

The man, reported by local police sources as weighing 100kg, landed on a local gym businessman who was having dinner outdoors at the hotel restaurant with his friends and wife.

Both men were instantly killed in the impact.

Spanish National Police are currently investigating the incident, with initial evidence suggesting the British man had consumed alcohol.

A similar freak accident took place in Marbella in 2010 when a 20-year-old woman attempted to commit suicide by jumping from her balcony on the 8th floor, surviving the fall but killing an 89-year-old woman when she impacted against the ground.  

Saturday’s accident is the first balcony fall involving a tourist since Spain ended its lockdown and reopened its borders to foreign visitors.

Some of Spain’s main holiday hotspots have been affected by similar tourist deaths in recent years.

Often they’ve come as result of what the Spanish press has dubbed “balconing”, the extremely dangerous practice of attempting to jump from a hotel balcony into the swimming pool down below, usually from a considerable height.

Rather than a jump it ends up being an accidental fall in 85 percent of cases, with victims – mostly young British tourists – usually if not always under the influence of alcohol and drugs. 

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Is now the time to scrap Spain’s ‘booze tourism’ model?

Spanish hoteliers and frustrated residents see the Covid-19 break as the perfect chance to replace the country’s boozy all-inclusive holiday packages with a more attractive and sustainable tourism model. But is it already too late?

Is now the time to scrap Spain's 'booze tourism' model?
Young British holidaymakers in Magaluf on the Spanish island of Majorca. Photo: AFP

As Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that come July foreign arrivals to Spain would no longer have to spend 14 days in quarantine, his message to tourists was clear: “We’re waiting for you”.

The news appears to have been met with excitement by the British tabloids, the Daily Mail running the story with the headline: “Back to Benidorm in JULY!”.

However, Spanish hotel and tourism groups don’t appear to be quite as enthusiastic about the return of hundreds of thousands if not millions of foreign visitors on cheap package deals, despite the fact that Spain’s all-important tourism industry has lost at least €20 billion as a result of its lockdown.

“We now have the opportunity to change the all-inclusive model,” Giuseppe Russo of Puerto Banús’s Business Association in Marbella told regional daily Málaga Hoy.

According to the group, the country’s tourism brand should return to seasonality and focus on higher-spending national tourists rather than on crowds of foreign visitors binge drinking and eating on the cheap. 

“The current model is all about stag-dos and hen parties, uncontrolled drunkenness and it attracts a type of person who is a safety hazard”, Russo argued, adding that in August it’s hard to find space to walk along the port’s promenade.

“This is discrediting Puerto de Banús’s brand and its reputation.

“A business model overhaul is an unavoidable step that will have to be designed with new parameters, technologies and capital.

“We want people to come to have a single drink and pay more for it. We don’t want groups of naked or topless ladies and men to come and get drunk anymore.”

Despite this desire for meaningful change- even in the face of two-and-a-half months of crippling economic losses – British package holiday providers appear to have already jumped on the chance to return to the old status quo.

Since Sánchez’s announcement, a number of companies have started offering cheap holiday packages in alcohol-fuelled hotspots such as Magaluf in Majorca, Benidorm and Las Americas in Tenerife.

In the case of Magaluf, the Balearic regional government passed a decree in January which banned most forms of alcohol-fuelled tourism on the Mediterranean islands, from booze cruises to free bars and vending machines which sell alcohol.

Based on what is included in their deals, British tour operators looking to restart business as usual in Spain in July appear to be overlooking this piece of legislation.

Spanish hotel and catering businesses with a link to this type of tourism now find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Do they accept a return to the unpopular old model as a more fireproof return to economic recovery or do they instead pursue a new type of quality tourism which could help restore their towns’ reputations?

Economically-speaking, tourism was Spain’s most important sector accounting for almost 15 percent of the country’s GDP and providing 2.8 million people with work before the Covid-19 outbreak.

With the most positive forecast suggesting Spain won’t recover the jobs lost during the lockdown until 2025, is now the right time for a partial overhaul of its cheap tourism model?