Although it was estimated that the opening of the Caminito del Rey would bring in significant economic regeneration to the Valle del Guadalhorce; the actual figures however have gone way beyond what was expected.
Queco García, who is the owner of the Garganta complex, next to the Caminito entrance from Álora and the president of the Gaudalhorce business association, says “In the three months since the opening we have seen a complete change in an area that was at a standstill. We calculate that the companies working directly with the Caminito or who are in a close geographical radius have more than tripled their profits”.
Other businesses in the wider area have also profited from the opening. “As we go further out we have noted an increase of at least 20 or 30 percent in other types of business that have received a major boost, which although not directly from the Caminito del Rey is clearly related to it,” he points out.
As well as this, according to García, many of the businesses have doubled their staff numbers. It is a significant employment opportunity for local residents. “In La Garganta complex, in just these three months, we have doubled the number of contracted workers. What’s more, these new additions have always been from the three areas closest to the Caminito del Rey: Ardales, Álora, and Valle de Abdalajís.”
Hotels in the area are also reaping the benefits. According to Queco García, during July, August and September (which is the last month to book to visit the Caminito del Rey) the bed occupancy rate will reach practically 90 percent in the establishments closest to the walk, a figure which reduces as the hotels get further away.
However along with the rest of the business owners in the area, Garcia is still waiting for a change in the price model for the Caminito del Rey. There is no charge for the walk at the moment however it does need to be previously booked. It is estimated that there will be a fee at the beginning of next year. According to García, this will be better for the business model, since it will be possible to create commercial packages with better planning and which are targeted more at foreign visitors.
Until relatively recently some of these businesses and hotels have had a quota of daily passes to offer their customers, although this system is now on standby, as there is a wait to see what will happen next.
Although there are evidently more pros than cons from the restructuring of the Caminito del Rey, the current situation is not completely perfect. According to some sources involved with the site (both business owners and workers) there has often been too many people at the site, caused precisely by the passes that businesses have. Despite the fact that at first there was a limit of 20 or 30 people per day, some of these businesses have continually exceeded this number.
It should be noted that institutions like the Diputación de Málaga and the town councils in the area have passes to give out as well; a situation which has on some occasions meant there have been very long queues to get onto the Caminito, something which is “unacceptable” for businesses. However, among the businesses that voiced complaints there was a touch of self-criticism, and they admit that it is partly their fault for abusing the passes they have.