MAINSTREAM package trips to Spain inevitably seem to take you to the most built-up, rammed-full beaches, so infrequent visitors could be forgiven for believing the country's coasts are synonymous with mass tourism,...
Spain still world number one for blue-flag beaches
SPAIN'S beaches may have lost 28 of their blue flags for 2019, but the country continues to hold the record for the highest number of these prestigious kitemarks in the world.
The provinces of Málaga and Huelva have lost eight blue flags apiece, including the former's famous Cabo Pino in Marbella, and the province of Cádiz has lost its quality indicator for is well-known Zahara de los Atunes, whilst that of Almería has also lost one.
Some town halls, however, opted not to apply for blue flags, conscious that they were not up to scratch due to – among other reasons – failure to comply with the Ley de Costas or 'Coastal Law', poor waste management, or inferior bathing water quality.
But with a total of 669 – of which 566 are for beaches, 98 for yachting marinas and five for ports for sustainable craft – Spain still wins hands-down worldwide and has plenty of top-notch beaches for holidaymakers to choose from.
A total of 50 beaches were unable to keep their blue flags, but 25 were awarded to those which did not have one in 2018.
Only three regions saw their blue flag totals rise: the Comunidad Valenciana, which is once again the region with the most, at 150, gained one for the province of Valencia and three for that of Alicante, two of which are in Dénia; the Spanish-owned city-province of Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast gained two, taking its total to four, and another of Extremadura's 'inland beaches' gained a flag, giving the region three.
Catalunya, despite losing three this year – all in the province of Barcelona – has the second-highest number of blue-flag beaches in Spain, at 120, closely followed by Galicia at 119, which has lost five this year, one in the province of Lugo and four in that of A Coruña.
Andalucía has the fourth-highest number of blue-flag beaches, at 98, but is also the region that lost the most – a net 17, having failed to renew 18 but gaining a new flag for the province of Granada.
The Balearic Islands lost five flags in Mallorca and gained two in Ibiza – a net loss of three, but still with 63 bearing this superior award.
The province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife forfeited a flag and that of Las Palmas five, reducing the Canary Islands' total to 49.
All other regions which applied kept the same number of flags: Murcia (31), Asturias (13), Cantabria (11), the Basque Country (five), the other Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast, Ceuta (two), and the sole inland beach in Madrid retained its kitemark.
Last year, 591 of Spain's 3,500 beaches held blue flags – whilst this is little more than one in seven, Spain has numerous remote and untouched bays which are not bathing areas, even though most are spectacular and offer a beautiful view where they are accessible for other purposes, such as for clifftop walkers.
The blue flag award requires beaches to meet extremely stringent and exacting standards covering cleanliness, water quality, safety, waste management, superior facilities and environmental management, all of which come at a great financial cost and involve considerable work, but which is a worthwhile investment because of the tourism income a successful blue flag bid generates.
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