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It seems the hard work and persistence of the councillor for tourism, Pepa Mari, has finally paid off as the Balearic Government announced that it would fight for both Ibiza and Menorca to be included in the pilot scheme for European pensioners. The shock announcement made by the councillor for tourism at the Govern, Miquel Nadal, comes just a month after he said the pilot scheme, which is set to bring 100,000 European pensioners to the Balearics, would be concentrated in Palma during its first year. However it is not yet a done deal, with Nadal claiming the final decision rested with the Central Government. Confirmation, though, that he would fight to have Ibiza included was a huge boost to Mari, and the island.
The battling Mari started off the week by assuring islanders she would persist in demanding the Balearic Government reconsidered its decision not to send some of the pensioners set to visit Palma from February, to Ibiza, adding she would not throw in the towel until she had some success.
The announcement came as Nadal and his administration revealed their seven measures to stave off the crisis and ensure the islands do not lose tourism over the next few years. This comes as 2008 saw a fall of 4.2 per cent in the number of British tourists visiting Ibiza, compared to the previous year.
The first, and most important measure, will be an increase in spending on the promotion of the four islands over the next twelve months. This measure coincides with the fourth on the list which will be to promote alternative products, apart from merely sun and sea, including nature trails, conference meetings and nautical tourism.
The second and third measures are concerned with the continued improvement of the islands’ infrastructure, both public and private, with help being offered to local businesses by the Balearic Government as part of its “Plan Renove” programme.
The president of the Islands’ Government, Francesc Antich, claimed that co-operation would be needed to help get through the economic crisis, as he insisted he would set up a unilateral party forum to deal with the issues affecting tourism, therefore taking it out of the political circle.
The sixth and penultimate measure would be to send a message of calm to those businesses within the Balearics, assuring them that whilst the world economy was in crisis, holidays would remain a necessity, especially to the British market, and would not be affected despite the tightening of the purse strings.
The seventh, and by far the most welcome, was the promise by Nadal that he would ensure Ibiza was included in the senior European pensioners plan.
AROUND THE ISLAND
WTM Kicks Off
The secretary of state for tourism, Joan Mesquida, declared, whilst at the World Travel Market in London, that the image of Ibiza within the UK was slowly improving. He said the British no longer associated the island with “lager louts” and “hooligans”, adding that the exposure given to Ibiza by celebrities such as Jade Jagger, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, amongst others, had helped to give Ibiza a more exclusive image. He added that he thought the control of opening times of the clubs and a banning of after-hour bars had had a positive effect, although he recognised the clubs would always play an important part in the island’s make-up.
He claimed Ibiza was the ideal destination for a short break, remarking on the attractions offered, whilst making particular mention to the ses Salinas natural park and the medieval market in May.
He continued that reservations for 2009 were positive in Mallorca, but suffering in both Ibiza and Menorca due to a lack of competitiveness. He urged hoteliers not to put up prices this year and to try and modernise their establishments, arguing that the island could not compete with other destinations on price but could do so on quality, adding that the islands remained a safe destination which would always appeal to the family market.
The contractor for Tui-Travel in Ibiza and Formentera, Karen Fisher, admitted bookings were slow for 2009 and had fallen year on year by between five per cent and 20 per cent. She said the recession was to blame and, more precisely, a lack of credit.
She continued that the main problem for tour operators working with the family market was that Ibiza was becoming more and more a young persons’ destination, which was guided by the opening of the discos, and that the only way to regain a six-month season would be to promote family tourism once again.
However, the minister for tourism at the Balearic Government, Miquel Nadal, was quick to maintain that a comparison with last year would be difficult before February. Despite this he said his department would be working hard, in conjunction with the tour operators and online businesses, to promote the Balearics, with both Ibiza and Menorca, receiving special attention.
The funding will come in addition to the €84 million which will be spent by Joan Mesquida’s department on the promotion of Spain as a whole, with the aim to try and encourage bookings, which he said were continuing at a similar rate to last year, despite the crisis.
All agreed that they did not believe people would sacrifice their holidays at the moment, and claimed there would be a splurge of late bookings come Spring.
Mesquida was joined on stage by Ignacio Vasallo, the manager of the Spanish Tourist Office in London, who claimed the crisis was making all-inclusive hotels more popular. He also said he thought they were damaging to tourism, especially on an island like Ibiza. He continued that all-inclusive properties were not necessary in Ibiza, whilst acknowledging that if the demand was there, it would have to be met.
A touch of glamour was brought to proceedings by the British cyclist, Rebecca Romero, who picked up gold in Beijing this summer, and was presented with a medal of honour for her achievements and connection to the Balearics. Her father is Mallorquin, and she spent many summers training on the island. She just had time to thank the Mallorcan Government and people before promptly fainting, due to the intense heat caused by a mix of the small reception room and the media scrum. However, she made a speedy recovery as the press, packed in like sardines, quickly made their way out.
The pursuit ace made history in Beijing by becoming only the second woman ever to win medals in consecutive Games in completely different sports. After winning Olympic silver as an elite rower, Rebecca grew disillusioned with the rowing ‘system’, and came close to quitting sport altogether. However, whilst recovering from an injury she was approached by the British cycle team who recognised the huge potential of Romero, something which paid dividends this summer.
There was anger and frustration at the Balearic stand during last week’s World Travel Fair in London, after Ibiza was put on the back burner once again at the expense of its more powerful neighbour. The fair is without doubt the most important such occasion of the year for the island, especially considering its dependence on the British market. However, the decision by the councillor for tourism, Pepa Mari, to unite the municipalities’ efforts into just one stand seems to have backfired.
Mari was left furious after the Ibiza stand was relegated to the inner circles of the Balearic display which remained dominated by stands promoting Mallorca. In fact several of the brochures publicising the Balearics barely mentioned the island, instead concentrating on Mallorca, whilst there were a total of 15 stands promoting Mallorca, whilst there was just one each for Ibiza and Formentera.
Unfortunately, the events of last week are nothing new as Mari claimed she was tired of fighting the same battle every year. She said that until the island had its own funding and could be completely independent from Mallorca, the problem would continue.
Her thoughts were backed by the councillor for tourism at the Town Hall of Santa Eulalia, Carmen Ferrer, who was likewise despondent at the treatment received. Ferrer was there, amongst other things, to promote the new conference facilities available in the municipality after the building of the new Convention Centre.
She went on to reveal that the Island Council would be working much closer with TUI Travel in the spring to ensure the promotion of the island, and that Ibiza remained at the forefront when the company was selling holidays.
Meanwhile, the man in charge of tourist promotion at the Balearic Government, Joan Sastre, put the problem down to a lack of communication between the two islands, whilst claiming the pavilion used this year was the same as every year.
However, the president of the Hotel Federation, Juanjo Riera, said the current situation, which ensured the island was being overshadowed by its chief competitor, could not continue for much longer.
The president of TUI-Germany has hinted that bookings could fall in Ibiza during 2009. Whilst at the official launch of the summer 2009 brochure, Volker Böttcher, said that while bookings would increase in Mallorca next summer, the same could not be said of both Ibiza and Menorca. Referring to the two smaller islands he said he believed they had lost a little of their attraction, in the German market, and consequently bookings were likely to fall.
He said the company was still hopeful of increasing numbers to Mallorca, despite the economic crisis, something they would do thanks to an aggressive pricing policy to try and encourage early bookings
After the acquisition of Pisces Park in San Antonio and Don Quijote in ses Figueretes, Grupo Playa Sol, the company owned by Catalan businessman, Fernando Ferre, has continued to acquire more hotel beds, announcing on Monday that an agreement had been reached with the Confort Plaza hotel in San Antonio. The 41-room apartment complex will be rented by GPS for an unspecified number of years from 2009.
However, despite the fact the Island Council denounced the group several times this season, including closing down one of its establishments, it seems it is also willing to support the controversial group after it was revealed there were GPS brochures available on the Ibiza stand at the World Travel Market, which took place in London last week.
The Island Council has joined forces with the Balearic Government, the Council of Formentera, and environmental groups to plead for a sanctuary for blue-fin tuna ahead of a conference to discuss the overfishing of the species later this month. The fisheries minister, Marga Torres, joined the growing worldwide outrage as she revealed the island had already cut back quotas, claiming just 2,000 tonnes of blue-fin tuna was captured in 2006 in the south of Formentera, whilst a massive 14,000 tonnes was caught six years earlier in the same area.
The 17th November will see the start of a meeting in Marrakech to discuss the conservation of Atlantic tuna, where ministers are expected to accept a reduced quota for the tuna, a shortened fishing season and increased controls, but will rule out a complete ban.
Ahead of the meeting of fisheries ministers, Greenpeace has called for a suspension of the fishing "until France, Spain, Italy and their Mediterranean neighbours stop illegal fishing practices." Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace’s EU oceans policy director continued, "The ministers of France, Italy and Spain have shown they are incapable of keeping illegal fishing for blue-fin tuna under control. Only a suspension of fishing can bring this species back from the brink of collapse."
The campaign received a boost from an unlikely source, as the Economist newspaper revealed how local fishing companies tried to take advantage of a loophole in the law.
“In the last decade there has been an explosion of something called ‘tuna ranching’ in many European nations, including Spain,” the influential newspaper reported this week. “Here, tuna are rounded up and penned rather than being landed (hence they do not count against the quota), becoming a form of aquaculture to be fattened up and sold on, a few years later. They don’t breed, and no fish are added back to the wild population...”
Echoing calls made by international conservation groups such as Greenpeace International and the World Wildlife Fund, The Economist called for a temporary closure to allow stocks to replenish themselves, claiming it was time certain Mediterranean countries became aware of their responsibilities.
Gesa Endesa, the company responsible for the island’s electricity, confirmed last week that bills would now become monthly. Whilst some customers receive their invoices every month, a vast majority are still only sent it every two months. However, this is set to change with the company confirming that the metres will still only be read every second month, with the first invoice an estimation.
The minister for transport, Albert Prats, announced on Wednesday that the vehicle inspection centre (ITV) would open during the afternoon. The temporary measures are being put in place to try and reduce the waiting list which has been continually rising over the last few months.
The afternoon sessions will run from Monday to Thursday from 3p.m. - 8p.m. and begin with two mechanics and an office worker, all of which will ensure an extra 80 vehicles a day can pass through the centre.
In 2007 a total of 50,000 MOT’s were carried out during the year.
In the Dark
A power failure across the whole of Mallorca and Menorca brought chaos to the two islands on Thursday. The problem began at 12.05p.m. when a bolt of lightening hit the central installation in Alcudia. This severely damaged the station, and immediately left both islands without any electricity. Due to the seriousness of the incident GESA immediately sent all of their technical staff to the station to try and solve the problem. In total there were 570,000 homes and businesses affected, numbering a total of 900,000 people.
At 1p.m. power had returned to a minority of areas close to Palma. By 2p.m. Menorca was receiving supply, while most of Mallorca remained without power. Two hours later a total of 177,000 clients were still in the dark, whilst normal service was resumed by 7p.m.
The power failure proved a washout for those businesses without a generator, with most deciding to close early.
The failure led to GESA receiving a number of compensation claims, including one from the Balearic Government after the train and metro system was severely affected.
Amid mounting rumours that the Ibiza Gran Hotel was up for sale, the managing director, Raul Sierra, admitted the establishment would be closing for one month during the winter. Although the exact dates are yet to be set, a two-month time period has been blocked off on the hotel’s website during January and February, although Sierra insisted it would only be closed for a month. He said the decision was taken after a number of defects were discovered which “need to be ironed out”. He denied the hotel was closing due to poor sales over the winter period, whilst reminding the public that the restaurant, spa and casino would remain open.
Around 200 high-school students held a protest against the Bologna plan on Thursday. The peaceful protest led to some delays in traffic as the students marched from the Island Council to the Town Hall of Ibiza, where they were met by deputy mayor, Santiago Pizarro, who promised to pass on their concerns. Meanwhile, some students took the opportunity to hurl eggs at the building.
The Bologna model refers to an agreement between most of the European member states to try and unify the higher education process so that graduates obtain qualifications which are recognised across Europe. In 1999 it was decided to follow the British model of higher education, which has led to fierce protests across the country.
Spanish university rectors, meeting at Barcelona University in 2001, agreed to abandon the old system and move towards the British or American model.
The rector of Vigo University, Domingo Docampo, commented at the time, "Right now, it's a real jungle with exorbitant prices, uninformed students and the final value of the qualifications is not clear."
However, with the change of system higher education will now come at a cost, with most students likely to run up mounting debts whilst carrying out their degree and/or masters. Basically, the fear is that the system will become more elitist, very much like the American model, with a number not being able to afford to continue studying.
The Island Council stepped into the debate surrounding the Cretu mansion in Santa Innes, and quickly stood its distance. The move came after comments made by the mayor of San Antonio, Jose Sala, last week that the Island Council would also need to accept some of the responsibility for the damages expected to be paid to the Romanian music producer, adding that it granted a favourable report about the construction in 2006.
However, the councillor in charge, Miquel Ramon, said the Town Hall was fully responsible for the debacle after it awarded the license to build the property, and that the Council could not accept any blame. However, he agreed the taxpayers of San Antonio should not be the ones to suffer, claiming those responsible for issuing the license should have to foot the bill. These comments come despite the fact the former president of the Island Council, Pere Palau, promised to support Sala and cover part of the costs.
Meanwhile, Sala revealed a total of eight bids had been received to carry out the demolition work, a number of which had come from the mainland.
The Ibiza Sun is saddened to report the death of Jose Sala Cardona, the much-loved father of the mayor of San Antonio, who died on Saturday aged 88 after a fall. A popular figure in the town, Sala was San Antonio’s first post-master, helping modernise the island’s postal system. His funeral was held on Monday at 4pm in the town’s church.
The Island Council has pleaded with the Airport Authorities, (AENA), that they carry out the expropriations correctly and with a considerable amount of sensitivity towards those who will be losing their properties.
It was announced last week that the project to include an emergency runway at the airport had been approved by the Island Council. Unfortunately this will mean a number of neighbours losing their homes, as well as the impact it will have on some warehouses in the area. At the moment the Council has not confirmed the number of properties affected, merely commenting that the expropriations will be carried out by AENA. However, the Council claimed it would be offering its full support to those affected, as well as free legal advice. Minister Albert Prats said four of those affected had already come to speak to him and each had left “at ease”.
However, a neighbour in the area claimed no one had yet come to see him and that there was a considerable amount of concern in the area, adding that neighbours only knew what was happening by reading the local press.
Work began last week on improving the Cala Vadella and Davall sa Serra roads. The Town Hall announced the start of the work on Wednesday which will include the re-surfacing of both roads at a cost of €900,000, which will be partly financed by the Island Council. The moves follow a series of accidents throughout the summer on the Cala Vadella road due to the poor condition of the tarmac, according to those involved.
Davall sa Serra is one of the access roads to the village of es Cubells, with the work beginning from the San Jose-Ibiza road through to es Cubells, a distance of approximately six kilometres. An official claimed the work on both roads would be finished by Christmas.
Midweek saw the now familiar barriers being put in place along the es Calo, bay road. After four years of disruption as part of the Plan of Excellence, neighbours hoped everything had at last been completed. However, Wednesday afternoon saw the barriers installed yet again.
An official close to the site claimed the work would take just one week to complete and involved putting a water pipe down the length of the bay road. However, what he fails to understand is that workers actually have to come and work for the disruption to last just one week, something which failed to happen and will once again mean weeks of disruption for local businesses.
Cycles Lanes Included
The renewal of the San Juan and San Miguel roads will include a bicycle lane. The exact details of the project were explained by the councillor for highways and the environment, Albert Prats. He said each would have a 2.5 metre wide cycle lane which would be separated from the road by a ditch, to become the first of its kind built on the island.
Work will hopefully get underway towards the end of 2009, although Prats explained there was still quite a bit of planning to do beforehand.
The width of both roads will be extended from the current six metres to nine metres, and a pavement will be built on either side.
The Island Council’s love affair with roundabouts will continue and there are six planned for the San Juan road at es Trull d`en Vic, es Pas d’ en Mateu, close to San Lorenzo, Ca na Pepeta, Can Coroner and the Portinax turning.
The Councillor also confirmed the opportunity would be taken to smooth out some of the sharper bends, although he was quick to point out that no other major changes would be made. He added that, whilst the road was up, the opportunity would be taken to bury any overhead cables.
The cost of the 11.3 kilometre San Miguel road will be €14 million, whilst the 13.4 km San Juan road would be in the region of €18 million, with €1.8 million and €2.4 million respectively, set aside for expropriations, although Prats said he was unsure how many there would be.
Jaume Ferrer, the president of the Island Council in Formentera, ended his party’s conference by promising the camp site planned for es Ca Mari would not become a reality. The leader of the Gent per Formentera (people for Formentera) party revealed a special municipal session would be organised for the 14th November, the sole purpose of which would be to annul the building license currently held by the promoters for the last 22 years.
As promised, the session duly took place last Friday in front of a packed public gallery, and the permit held by Formentera Club SA since 1987 was finally annulled.
In emotional scenes the president reminded the public that the company would be able to appeal the decision.
For most, the happy ending comes after two decades of fighting to prevent the macro-project which united an island.
The story began in 1986 when the company, Formentera Club SA, presented a project to build 330 bungalows on the site of the old Can Marroig finca which would have represented 10 per cent of tourist beds on the island. Although permission was denied by the then Town Hall, a year later the promoters managed to get a license from the now defunct Planning Department at the Balearic Government. The response of the public was swift, and an association was quickly set up opposing the project. In 1992 a massive protest left the authorities in no doubt that the population were against the plans. Construction was repeatedly stopped by successive Town Halls until the promoters won an appeal to get the license issued, and in July 1992, under duress, the Town Hall issued the license.
On 5th November 1993 the public responded with a massive half-day strike, observed by nearly everyone on the island.
Between 1987 and 2003 the Town Hall was involved in a number of attempts to have the license annulled, but time after time it lost the court battle. In 1996 four members of the Town Hall who prevented the start of the work were found guilty and prohibited from holding any form of public office for the following six years.
Finally, with the license in hand the project was started, but again stopped by the Town Hall after the work encroached on land governed by the Coastal Authorities. The promoters were ordered to re-plan the project, which they never presented, leading to President Ferrer finally annulling the original license, last Friday.
CRIME & INCIDENTS
la Marina Disaster
Tragedy struck in the la Marina area of Ibiza Town on Saturday after a fire led to the death of two children. The two-year-old boy and three-year-old girl, both of Ecuadorian parents but born on the island, were in their first floor flat, alone, when the fire broke out. Both took refuge under the bed in one of the bedrooms. The alarm was raised by neighbours in the floor above after they smelt burning. They immediately rushed down to the first floor apartment and, after not receiving an answer, tried to force open the front door. They immediately called the emergency services which arrived some 15 minutes later.
In the meantime the children’s mother arrived back at the apartment, and on opening the door was hit by a wall of smoke. The emergency services quickly entered the property and emerged with the two children.
They then spent over an hour trying to revive them without success, with a spokesman claiming they died from smoke inhalation.
Although the exact cause of the fire is not yet known, it is believed a faulty heater was to blame.
A man caught stealing €6,262 from a supermarket safe in Can Bellotera has been sentenced to one and a half years in prison. Two individuals were caught as they left the scene of the crime after a neighbour alerted police, having heard strange noises. His accomplice was given a six month sentence.
A man who robbed a 75-year-old lady after stabbing her in the back in Santa Creu church has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison. The incident occurred on 18th June just moments after the woman entered the church. She was sitting in one of the pews when she felt a sudden, sharp pain in her back. She then saw the man take her bag which, despite the pain, she tried to hold on to.
The defendant was arrested several days later in Bora Bora, Playa den Bossa, and was picked out in an identity parade by the woman. The accused denied the attack, saying he was asleep in his house in sa Penya at the time. However, inconsistencies in his story, together with the fact that the victim had identified him, led to the judge finding him guilty.
An eight-year-old British child, who was knocked down in Santa Gertrudis on Friday, was said to be making a good recovery after being flown to Son Dureta hospital in Palma. Although the incident was still being investigated it appears the child ran out of a playground in the area and straight into the path of a 4x4 vehicle, with a British registration. He suffered severe head injuries and the decision was taken to fly him to Palma, because there are no special intensive care facilities for children on the island. Thankfully, it appears the victim was making a steady recovery and was transferred onto a ward on Sunday.
A Spanish youngster had to be rescued by members of the fire service after he became stuck in a well. The 19-year-old climbed down into the five-metre deep well, located in a house close to the Can Gall agro-tourist hotel, to rescue a cat which had fallen in. However once at the bottom, and despite attaching a rope to his waist, the boy was unable to climb back out. Fortunately, a friend soon alerted the emergency services and the fire service were soon on hand to help the boy to safety after nearly an hour in one metre of water. Although an ambulance was put on standby the victim did not require hospital treatment, merely complaining he was “very cold”.
By modern day standards Ibiza is an extremely safe place to holiday. This is a weeks worth of news and so its effect is magnified. Please do not fret while you are here - you are quite safe!!
If you have any stories for our incidents section then call or fax 971-348-271 or e-mail on: email@example.com
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