Spain holidays: Pollution loses popular resort area money as tourists avoid

Simon Calder says he’s ‘holding off’ booking a holiday

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A new study has found that the tourist area in Mar Menor is losing income every night due to pollution. Holidays around Mar Menor decrease by one euro (83p) per night for every cubic millimetre of chlorophyll found in the lagoon waters. It lost another £1.54 per night for every negative social media comment. 

Mar Menor ‘Smaller Sea’ is the largest saltwater lagoon in Spain and is located near sunny Cartagena.

Tourists used to flock to the areas around Mar Menor to enjoy the lagoon’s clear and safe waters.

However, in recent years the condition of Mar Menor has significantly deteriorated due to pollution.

In 2017, all the Mar Menor beaches lost their Blue Flag status due to the polluted water conditions.

Since 2019, there have been two major environmental incidents where thousands of dead fish washed up on the lagoon’s shores.

The pollution is thought to have been caused by intensive farming in the surrounding areas.

Chemicals from fertilisers have deprived the water of oxygen and exterminated many of the lagoon’s creatures.

A new study by Ricardo Teruel of the Polytechnic of Cartagena university, has found that Mar Menor’s state is costing the area’s tourism industry.

Teruel uncovered that each milligram of chlorophyll in the Mar Menor causes holiday prices to drop by one euro (83p) per night.

He also discovered that negative comments about the lagoon on social media caused prices to drop by almost 1.84 euros (£1.54) per night.

The areas most affected were those closest to the lagoon that didn’t have access to the Mediterranean sea.

Teruel said: “The price effect is even more pronounced in accommodations that are not in La Manga, where guests have the possibility of bathing in the Mediterranean (sea).”

In August 2021, when around five tonnes of dead fish washed up on Mar Menor’s shores, the water reportedly turned green.

Onlookers said the stench was awful and regional officials were forced to close eight beaches.

The area around Mar Menor used to be very popular with British expats due to its great climate and many amenities.

However on an expat forum, one person said: “With hindsight I wouldn’t buy in this area again.

“The whole of the Mar Menor lost its blue flag status some years ago. There is no sign of it returning.”

The situation has led tens of thousands of residents to take part in protests, calling for the Government to take action.

A petition to save the Mar Menor and grant it the legal protections of a person, reached half a million signatures in October last year.

Client Earth and Ecologistas en Acción have submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission to push Spain to act.

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