60 YEARS OF A MARBELLA CLASSIC
Last Friday, 7th of July, took place the anniversary party of the first hotel that opened its doors in the centre of Marbella Village: Fuerte Marbella
It was July 1957 when José Luque Manzano, accompanied by his wife Isabel García Bardón and their children, left his hometown of Estepa to open a business by the sea in what was then the fishing village of Marbella. Nobody understood his commitment to opening a hotel by the beach, on land which at the time was seen as being arid and infertile. But it was all very clear to the founder of the company that has today become Fuerte Group Hotels, one of the best known hotel chains in Andalusia: the privileged climate of the Malagan coastline, together with the magic of the Mediterranean would attract many foreigners seeking sun, sea and sand.
And this was how, against all odds, the first establishment to be opened in the centre of Marbella Village, the Fuerte Marbella Hotel, served as a catalyst for a destination that, over the year, became one of the most important hotspots for international tourism in Spain and the Mediterranean basin.
Last Friday, the 7th of July, was the 60th anniversary of that mythical opening, a milestone that the current CEO of the chain (José Luque Manzano passed away in 1984) and her children wanted to mark with a party with the main executives of the company, family members, friends and representatives of the Costa del Sol’s tourism, economic and cultural sectors, among others. The event took place in the hotel’s spectacular gardens, which afford wonder views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Fuerte Marbella, a Marbella Classic
Fuerte Marbella was named in honour of the Fort that is found outside the main building, a fortress constructed in 1554 on the orders of Charles V to repel attacks by pirates, and that was subsequently used as a powder magazine. One of the first famous visitors to stay at Fuerte Marbella was Walt Disney, who took a room at the hotel in 1958. His visit caused a great stir in the village and among people of the establishment, including Pedro Guerrero, who was a bellhop at the time and is now retired, who still remembers walking Pluto – the director’s authentic dog – on the beach at Marbella, in exchange for succulent tips.
After him came many other celebrities like the poet Rafael Alberti, and particularly the great Lola Flores, who before purchasing her famous “Los Gitanillos” residence in Marbella, spent many summers at Fuerte Marbella.
This history, just like the story told by the actors of the film “Holiday in Spain”, filmed at the hotel, has not been forgotten, particularly thanks to the Museum that the Luque family built a few years ago inside the old fort. This magical spot, today found on the hotel’s Terraza de los Pinos, allows visitors to take a tour of the evolution of tourism in our country over the last 60 years. That is, almost since its beginning. Old telephone exchanges, cash registers, brochures and posters from yesteryear, crockery and cutlery; endless pieces that help the visitor to go back to the roots of an industry that is today considered as one of the main economic activities of our country. But when it was getting off the ground, everybody dismissed it as a frivolous industry, because it was related to leisure and holidays.