Thursday, 4 December 2014

Costa del Conference Venue: Working in Fuengirola

Last month I shared my snobbish surprise that Fuengirola was an ideal beach break destination: with excellent-value hotels, clean beaches and good shopping, what's not to love? But the reason I found myself in Fuengirola in the first place was business, not pleasure: my company had chosen to host their annual summer conference in this seaside resort.

Business or pleasure?

I couldn't understand the logic behind holding a conference in a popular tourist destination in the height of summer, but once I clicked through to the website of the THB Reserva del Higuerón, I didn't care. This four star superior (whatever that means) hotel nestles in the hills between Fuengirola and its neighbouring resort Benalmádena and has more facilities than you can shake your sun cream at. Or at least, more than you can road test during a three-day conference: there's a health club including a gym, full spa and tennis courts; three swimming pools (one of which is a swanky infinity pool), a choice of restaurants, cafés and bars, a mini-train to trundle you off to the beach and a beach club once you get there.

The view from my room at THB Reserva del Higueron

The Reserva del Higuerón isn't just crammed full of facilities, though; it's also rather trendy. Decor is sleek and chic, with piped electronic music reminding you how deeply fashionable the place is. There's the odd pretentious element, and there was a fair bit of posing going down on the couples' sunloungers surrounding the infinity pool, but the staff are friendly and helpful. There were a few style over substance gaffes, however: in the bedrooms, a sliding door served both the toilet and the adjacent shower – but it didn't cover both at the same time. The bathtub was also positioned in the room itself, presumably designed so that you could soak up the view at the same time as the bubbles, but these decisions mean it's not ideal for friends sharing (or new partners). There were no phones in the rooms either – reception supplied a mobile if you needed one. Presumably this was a cost-cutting incentive dressed up as a digital era decision, but it's not the handiest plan for a hotel that also offers conference facilities.

Sunset from the infinity pool

Apart from that though, I couldn't fault the Reserva del Higuerón as a conference venue – or a hotel for those seeking a relaxing escape. As we were in meetings and training sessions all day, proximity to the beach, restaurants and shops wasn't a priority, but for those who like to feel the sand between their toes or want to get out on day trips, the location may be a bit remote. The free mini-train service connects the hotel with the shopping centre, the train station and the beach in Fuengirola, but with 8 services a day (the last one at 7pm), it's of limited help. However, as the facilities and food in the hotel are of a high standard, this doesn't matter if you're looking for somewhere to chill out for a few days. And if you do want to venture further afield, you can hire cars in reception. Another big plus is its status as an 'adults only' hotel: when I saw this one the website, I feared swingers' nights would be advertised in reception, but it means exactly what it says – children aren't allowed to stay here, meaning a peaceful poolside experience for all.

The meeting room we were allocated was well-appointed and all the audiovisual equipment worked: a must for a conference venue. And in the snatches of free time we got, we could enjoy the gym or the swimming pools (awkward 'colleague in swimsuit' alert). We enjoyed buffet-style breakfasts and lunches, and were whisked off by bus to dine in the evenings. The nearby Restaurante El Higuerón (handily located across a motorway, so yes the bus was needed) served delicious Spanish dishes in traditional surroundings, with a panoramic view over the hills and down to the sea. Watching the sun set from here while tucking into gourmet food wasn't a shabby experience at all.

Fuengirola surprised me again. It may not be your traditional conference venue, but I'd much more stay in a chic hotel surrounded by (well-behaved) holidaymakers to dilute the business experience a little. And when you can end the day with a sunbathe, a swim and a sip of cava by the infinity pool, so much the better.

The details
THB Reserva del Higuerón is at Autopista Costa del Sol, salida 217, Avenida del Higuerón 46, 29640 Fuengirola. It's 19km from Malaga airport and 2km from the beach.
Prices start from €46 in low season for a double room excluding breakfast. This is an absolute bargain.

You can read my post about my weekend break in Fuengirola here.

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