SAN JAVIER – Walking among dead fish to murky-looking water knowing that water is highly polluted doesn’t make a splash in Spain’s largest inland sea any more appealing. Local entrepreneurs in the tourism sector are suffering considerably from the negative image.
Mar Menor was once the tourist attraction of the Murcia region, in southeastern Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the transparent water with a pleasant temperature, the inland sea was very attractive for families to spend their holidays there. In recent decades, a flourishing tourism sector has emerged.
The change started a few years ago. Not only the tourism sector in the area grows strongly. The agricultural sector also expanded considerably. This expansion has translated into an increasing number of discharges of polluted water into the Mar Menor and more illegal abstraction of water for agricultural purposes. The commonly used pesticides also invariably end up in the inland sea after rain showers via drainage channels. This process caused an oxygen deficiency in the water, which killed fish and other sea creatures. The unbridled growth of algae also formed, making the water look increasingly cloudy.
Pollution Mar Menor affects prices
Earlier data showed that Mar Menor has lost attractiveness due to the pollution. However, a study by the Polytechnic University of Cartagena (UPCT) has now shown that the high level of pollution in the Mar Menor (Murcia) has a direct and negative impact on the price of accommodation in the area. According to Ricardo Teruel’s thesis, every milligram of chlorophyll per m3 of water present in the Mar Menor reduces the price per night of accommodations advertised on platforms such as Airbnb by almost one euro (95 cents).
“The results show how offers near highly polluted points have a greater impact on their price,” the director of the doctoral research, María Luz Maté, professor at the Faculty of Business of the UPCT, told Diario de Ibiza newspaper.
Negative reactions on the social network Twitter lowered the prices of hotels, apartments, and holiday homes. Prices were between €1.72 and €1.84 lower per night in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Pronounced price effect
“This price effect is even more pronounced in the accommodations not located in La Manga de Mar Menor. Because here is the possibility to swim in the Mediterranean Sea,” explains the PhD student in a press release. It describes how Teruel uses the European Space Agency’s Centinela 3 satellite to compare the spatial and geographic evolution of pollution levels with the price of listings on the popular accommodation website Airbnb.
Developing sustainable strategies is important
The research also analyses the environmental management strategies of hotels in Barcelona. The conclusion is that specialization through sustainability initiatives contributes to better results for these eco-hotels. It enables them to distinguish themselves from the competition.
“Failing to develop sustainable strategies in the Mar Menor area means wasting these competitive advantages,” Teruel concludes.