The evolution in the last decade has been spectacular to the point that it almost tripled the number of foreign residents in the province. In 2002 there were 104,128 foreigners registered in Malaga, 7.8% of the total. In 2012 this figure had risen to 292,257 people, 17.8% of the total, according to data released by the National Statistics Institute (INE). The climate of the Costa del Sol and the rise of residential tourism have been important factors in this development. In the boom years, more than half of the houses that were built on the coast were acquired by foreigners, mostly Europeans enjoying retirement here.
Malaga, Marbella and Mijas are the three nuclei which concentrate the largest number of foreigners. In Mijas 41.7% of the population are foreigners, a very significant number in a location with more than 80,000 residents. However, there is only one municipality in the province where there are more foreigners than Spanish: Benahavis, situated between Marbella and Estepona. In 2012 there were registered in this town, according to INE, 3,715 foreigners, 62% of the total. In that location thus it is easier to hear English or German than Spanish.
Thousands of foreigners have bought a property or country house and live in their own paradise away from the low temperatures of their country of origin. Most foreigners choosing to live in Malaga are European; the British colony being the largest, with over 75,500 registered inhabitants last year. Overall, two-thirds of foreigners living in the province are Europeans.