Homes & Gardens
Adventure & Sports
The first big tourist fair of the year, FITUR, got underway on Wednesday under a dark cloud, with most experts admitting 2009 would be a difficult year.At the fair in Madrid the Minister for Tourism, Miquel Nadal, tried to remain positive claiming the Balearics held a distinct advantage over many other destinations. However, he finished by saying it would not be easy to equal the figures recorded in 2007 and matched last year across the four islands. He confirmed that if similar figures are hit in 2009 it will have been an extremely successful year. He then handed over to his namesake, Rafa, the number one tennis player on the planet, as the world premiere of the 30-second advert promoting the Balearics took place. In the ad Rafa invites viewers to come and get to know his home. “There exists some islands very close to you where the sun is always shining. Its beaches are spectacular and the natural environment incredible. Islands which have everything. These islands are my home. I invite you to get to know them.”
The timing could not have been better, as the launch came in the same week Rafa was crowned the Australian Open Champion, after a gruelling five-setter with Roger Federer.The ad will bombard advertising slots in both the United Kingdom and Germany as part of a €5 million promotional campaign. The good news at the market was the great positioning of the stand promoting Ibiza, after various complaints following the fiasco at the World Travel Market in London which saw the island’s promotional stand hidden away.
However, as the British economy entered into its first recession in over 15 years it became clear that price would be even more important in 2009. The president of the Hotel Federation, Juanjo Riera, called on hoteliers to maintain their rates for summer ‘09 against growing pressure from tour operators. Conservative estimates claim reservations from the British market are currently down by between 10-12 per cent for 2009, with some claiming this figure could be as high as 20 per cent. This has led to the tour operators slashing the price of holidays to Ibiza in an attempt to try and reactivate the market. However, this will, in turn, ensure they need more competitive prices from the hoteliers to make the island an attractive option against a weakening pound.
Riera, however, was quick to highlight that room prices on the island were already extremely competitive and there would not be too much room for manoeuvre. He pointed to the fact that whilst room rates had remained more or less static over the last few years, property tax (IBI) had risen by around 42 per cent and refuse collection by 56 per cent.
Similarly, the Secretary of State for Tourism, Joan Mesquida, warned against a price war which he claimed would only damage hotels in the long run.
Pepa Mari said each hotel would know best if their prices need to be reduced to become more competitive, although she insisted that lower prices should not mean a reduction in quality. She claimed she had had meetings with the main tour operators, and had urged them not to take any drastic decisions at the moment and reduce the number of flight seats to the island. She added there was still time for a recovery, and that they would receive the necessary support to help promote the island.
One market set to prosper during 2009 is the all-inclusive sector, as budgeting travellers try and control the costs of their entire holiday spending. Online travel operator, Lastminute.com, has increased the number of all-inclusive holidays it is offering for 2009 as a result of an increase in demand, which they believe will be well above the 21 per cent rise experienced last year.
The strong euro has also ensured non-euro zones have increased dramatically in popularity over the last year according to the popular website, with Tunisia up 71 per cent, Istanbul up 53 per cent, and Egypt up 22 per cent.
During the fair Miquel Nadal revealed that the average tourist spend decreased significantly in 2008. In the Balearics as a whole, visitors spent a total of €8,146 million during 2008, €2,300 million less than in 2007. Similarly the figure for Ibiza was just as worrying with the figure standing at €1,439 million, 22 per cent less than the previous year. However, both Mari and the council president, Xico Tarres, cast doubt on the reliability of these figures, claiming they had a study undertaken by the National Tourist Board (Turespaña) which showed a 2.8 per cent increase on the island.
AROUND THE ISLAND
Figures released last week by the National Bureau of Statistics predicted that average life expectancy in the Balearics by 2017 would be 80.34 years of age, two years more than the current figure. This puts the island slightly above the national average which is just below 80 years of age.
The study also looked at the forecast for the age of expectant mothers on the islands and predicted that it would not change drastically, rising from the present figure of 30.4 years to 30.49 years.
Immigration, on the other hand, is set to fall from the 25,571 received in 2008, to 17,384 predicted in 2017.
Meanwhile, the number of births on the island during 2008 fell slightly from the previous year. Last year there were a total of 1,287 births, 57 less than in 2007. The number of Caesareans increased from 290 to 329, more than one in every four births.
At the same time Formentera saw a spectacular increase with a total of 65 births throughout 2008, more than double those of the previous year.
Paula was the most popular girls’ name in the Balearics last year followed by Maria and Lucia, with Marc the most popular boys’ name, followed by Alejandro and Pau.
Two victims who lost their homes when the Barceló building collapsed eight years ago have begun a hunger strike outside the Law Courts, to try and speed up the judicial process. Juan Jose Peciña and Juan Manuel Miranda said they had both been forced into such drastic action due to the ongoing delay which had put a significant financial strain on all of those affected, and ensured most continued to pay mortgages on apartments which were no longer habitable.
The controversy began back in December 2000 when Viajes Barceló, one of the largest travel groups in Spain, decided to refurbish their offices in Ca n’Escandell, in Ibiza Town. Initially they asked for permission from the Town Hall, but after the administration demanded a safety report was carried out on the building, the work began without the report being carried out. As workers began knocking down walls, the wrought iron supports of the building were damaged.
Workers, aware of the danger, evacuated the residents of the neighbouring building which shared the supporting frame. Moments after being evacuated safely the building collapsed, destroying a total of 18 apartments and several business premises.
Three people were arrested including the legal representative of Viajes Barceló, the managing director of the construction company carrying out the work, as well as the owners of the building where the travel agents was located. However, eight years later no one has yet been charged, and more importantly no compensation has been given to the victims who lost their homes on that fateful day.
Sources claimed the judicial process had been so slow due to the complicated nature of the case which involved over twenty victims.
The lawyer for one of the men currently on a hunger strike said his client was demanding a €30,000 fine for each of those he felt responsible for the disaster, as well as around €180,000 in compensation for the damage caused to his apartment.
Miranda was taken to hospital on Sunday afternoon suffering from dehydration and hyperglycaemia, although soon after he had received the necessary medical attention, he was back on the street to continue his protest.
The fishing fleet in Ibiza and Formentera invoiced a total of €3.6 million last year, two per cent up on the previous year. However, there were vast differences between the three subsections.The fleet in Formentera managed to capture a total of 112 tonnes of fish, ten per cent more than in 2007, whilst sales were up eleven per cent to €898,827.Also following a similar trend was the fleet based out of San Antonio which saw an increase of 15 per cent in sales, whilst the amount of fish caught hit 130 tonnes.However, the same could not be said for those professionals based out of the capital who saw sales fall by 6.7 per cent to €1,846,370, with a total of 263 tonnes caught, eleven per cent less than last year.The secretary of the Ibiza Town guild, Xico Cardona, said 2008 had been a disaster, with the bad weather during the last two months compounding what had already been a very difficult season. He added that the results recorded in November, with less than 12.5 tonnes caught, was the worst in the last 20 years.Cardona also blamed the changing habits of the consumer for the poor annual results. He continued that people now preferred the convenience of frozen fish which was also much cheaper. In total 70 different varieties of fish were caught by the three fleets working out of the Pitiusas.Unfortunately, the figures were released during a week where high winds ensured the fleets on the island lost around €40,000, with most unable to ply their trade for up to ten days. Those in Formentera were the worst affected, having been unable to fish since 16th January due to the weather.
Salinera Española made a little extra on the side this winter after an unexpected order from the United Kingdom. A British company bought a total of 3,280 tonnes of salt to help eliminate snow and ice on roads back home.
The chief executive of production in Ibiza, Jose Maria Fernandez, admitted the order had been a huge bonus, and ensured that, unlike the previous year, the entire 2008 crop, which topped 37,000 tonnes, was sold.
Top of the Pile
The new marketing plan which was unveiled by the Balearic Government two weeks ago puts the British market in the A category, claiming the sector remains the market leader and one which needs the most promotion. Last year was the first year in many which saw a decline in the number of British tourists visiting the island, although Brits remain the most popular nationality to the island with a total of 33 per cent of total visitors.
Joining Britain in the A category is Germany, a sector the plan recognised had been falling in the last few years, but which still warranted extensive promotion due to its propensity to visit outside of high-season.
In the second section came the northern European countries including Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The plan considers this an interesting market for the future, especially considering their interest in “sun and sea” tourism, although the report recognises their minimal contribution to date; they make up just 0.4 per cent of tourists to the island.
Surprisingly, Spain and Italy are found in the third group, along with France. The report claims that although the Spanish currently make up about 30 per cent of summer tourism, the tendency is for most to be concentrated during July and August, a trend which will mean far less promotion on a national level. The report gives a similar outline of the Italian market which currently represents around twelve per cent of visitors.
The president of the Hotel Federation, Juanjo Riera, criticised the plan claiming the money spent on promotion in the northern European countries would be money wasted. He pointed out the fact that the largest tour operator working with this sector was Apollo, and after bringing just 4,500 tourists to the island in 2008, they had cancelled all connections with Ibiza for this year. Riera continued that he would prefer the money to be spent on emerging markets which have the capacity to grow, including Poland, Portugal and Ireland.
However, he applauded the plan’s advice to bring back the “Ibiza” label to displace “Illes Balears” which is currently used, claiming this was more associated with Mallorca, the island’s biggest competitor.
The Marketing Plan has been developed for the Balearic Tourist Board by a private company at a cost of €300,000, and will give the local tourist department €2,856,000 to spend on the promotion of the island over the next year.
The Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs director, Diego Gonzalez, has unveiled a new online service which can be used by the public for making official complaints and gathering information.
At the moment the website, http://www.consum.caib.es is only available in Spanish and Catalan, but with recent research revealing around 42 per cent of the Balearic population are regular internet shoppers, Gonzalez hopes the new website can ensure customer satisfaction remains key to those selling online. Travel tickets remain amongst the most popular purchases, followed closely by electrical gadgets.
Gesa-Endesa, the island’s electric provider, has adapted its billing system to new Government legislation, which will mean customers receiving an invoice every month. However, the first will be estimated, with the average for the previous year taken, whilst the second will be made after a metre reading is taken. This will probably mean a higher than normal bill will arrive on your doorstep once the actual metre reading has been taken.
However the Central Government has taken exception to this new system and demanded the electric company read everyone’s metre each week.
The Balearic Government agreed legislation last week which will allow hotels and apartment complexes to legalise extra hotel beds. Businesses will now have up to eight months in order to declare any new beds, and will have to pay a total of €4,000 for each one. However, in accordance with the demands of the hoteliers, each complex will be allowed to legalise a total of just five per cent.
The money created from the scheme will go to each individual Island Council, with the Balearic Government expected to make between €70 million and €90 million.
Can Misses dealt with a total of 54,901 cases in A&E last year, 1,100 less than the previous year. Meanwhile, in Formentera the A&E unit dealt with a total of 1,211 more cases rising from 12,164 in 2007 to 13,375 last year.
Disappointingly, in the Balearics the waiting time for an operation increased by 7.52 per cent, with 11,988 patients on the list on 31st December 2008, 938 more than the end of 2007, with the average patient having to wait 66 days for an operation.
"Mr. Nice" the best-selling autobiography based on the life of legendary cannabis smuggler, Howard Marks, began filming in Wales last week. Due to a legal wrangle the making had been delayed considerably, but everything is now in place for the life of the former Mallorcan resident to be transformed onto the big screen.
During his 20-year career as a drug dealer, it is estimated Marks smuggled in the region of 30 tons of marijuana from Pakistan and Thailand to America and Canada. He never used violence, and famously always refused to deal in hard drugs.
At the height of his career in the 80s, the Oxford-educated Welshman had 45 aliases, 89 phone lines and 25 companies throughout the world as money laundering vehicles for his drug business.
After being busted Marks spent seven years of a 25-year sentence at Terre Haute prison in Indiana. He was released in 1995.
The British-produced film will star Rhys Ifans, 40, as Howard Marks, with other actors including Sean Penn, Chloe Sevigny, David Thewlis, and former EastEnders actress, Michelle Ryan.
The Town Hall in Ibiza is to introduce legislation this week which it hopes will make the streets safer and more resident-friendly in the future. The by-laws, which were supposed to be introduced last January are, according to Councillor Vicent Ferrer, legislation which makes common sense, and will ensure tolerance and mutual respect between residents.
The main crackdown will involve prostitution, with the new measures intending to target those soliciting sex, as well as those offering their services. The Councillor for Tourism confirmed police would take a “softly, softly” approach with those breaking the law, and offer them information about where they can receive help. However, those who continue with their activity will be cautioned, with fines ranging from €250-€3,000, although minors cautioned will be allowed to carry out community service instead.
The consumption of alcohol in the streets will also be prohibited, except on licensed terraces, and authorised public fiestas.
Aggressive begging is also set to be targeted by police, including those who demand money for helping you park your car, and those offering to clean your windscreen at traffic lights.
Street entertainers who do not possess a public license could also face prosecution, as well as public street sellers without the necessary paperwork.
Skaters and cyclists in areas which could cause a disturbance to others will also be liable for an official telling-off, with walking dogs on public beaches also now prohibited.
An opinion poll carried out in Ibiza Town revealed that the majority of residents wanted their tax invested in improved cleaning of public areas, as well as more car-parking. The survey revealed that 24.7 per cent of the public questioned gave priority to better public cleaning, whilst 22.5 per cent said they wanted to see a resolution to the parking crisis in the town, with just 10.8 per cent wanting to see their money go to the needier in society.
The survey also revealed 89.3 per cent supported the Town Hall’s moves to protect ses Feixes.
Meanwhile 83.9 per cent consider Ibiza Town to be the capital of the island. Even though it is not officially recognised as such, 72.3 per cent feel the Town Hall should demand the town is recognised as a capital, which would ensure it received far more money in subsidies from both the Central and Balearic Governments.
The civil servant arrested two weeks ago accused of accepting bribes has been granted bail, and released from prison on Monday having left a bond of €8,000 with the court. Pedro A. is charged with accepting money in return for keeping quiet about several illegal building projects whilst carrying out his work at the Town Hall of San Antonio, work which required him to control projects being carried out in the municipality.The Town Hall also confirmed it had written a letter to the judge asking if it could be part of the investigation. The deputy mayor, Joan Pantaleoni, said the Town Hall took the charges very seriously, and without pre-judging this particular case, whoever abused his position in public office should be exposed and punished.
The Town Hall in San Antonio has given Michael Cretu 30 days to clear all of his personal possessions from his mansion before the bulldozers move in. The deputy mayor, Joan Pantaleoni, said the decision had been taken because the alternative would prove even more complicated, and involve the Town Hall having to clear the house, categorise all of the items, and then store everything they found inside. If nothing is removed the Town Hall will understand that the Romanian music producer does not want any of it, and continue with the demolition.Several days later Cretu’s lawyer insisted that it was part of the demolition job to remove what was inside the mansion, adding this meant it was the task of the Town Hall. He finished by claiming his client would take the necessary legal action if anything was destroyed which could be salvaged.
Mayor Jose Sala announced at Fitur on Friday, in the company of the Island Sports Councillor, that the Ruta de la Sal will end in the port of San Antonio this year. Since its creation the race, which begins from both Barcelona and Denia, has always finished in the port of Ibiza, but due to mooring difficulties the finishing point has been switched.
The race will occur on the Easter weekend (from Thursday 9th-Sunday 12th April).
On Wednesday the Town Hall of San Antonio announced that GPS systems would be installed in all police vehicles. The moves will not only improve the response time of officers, but also help the Town Hall keep a control on where the vehicles are at all times.The improvements will come in addition to a €400,000 investment to the station at the entrance to the town.
The Island Council announced on Monday that it would be delaying plans for a new parking system in ses Salinas until 2010. Island councillor Albert Prats confirmed that he had been advised by experts currently drawing up the project that trying to rush it through this year would lead to unnecessary risks and chaos in the area.
The council has been in meetings throughout January with both the Town Hall of San Jose and the Balearic Government, as all three institutions look to map out a project they hope will control access to the island’s only natural park, therefore helping to protect it.
In theory the final project will be finalised by the end of the month, with financing being provided by the Balearic Government to the tune of €5 million, a figure Prats believes to be insufficient.
The basic plan is to build a car park on the outskirts of ses Salinas, and have buses shuttling visitors to and from the beaches. However, the project will also look to build a bicycle lane and bury overhead telephone and electric cables.
The Airport Authorities, (AENA), confirmed on Thursday that it would look at alternatives to try and reduce the impact the building of an emergency runway would have on the surrounding buildings. In total around six houses and ten businesses will be demolished if the original plans are carried out, although it is hoped a strategic re-think could save the majority.
The mayor of San Jose, Josep Mari Ribas, confirmed he had met with AENA officials to discuss the plans at the recent tourist fair in Madrid, (FITUR). He said they had promised to revise the original project, and that he would know more when they visited the island in a few weeks.
Officials from AENA, however, added a note of caution claiming that changes would only be made if the security of the airport was not compromised in any way.
The Town Hall of San Jose admitted on Wednesday that work on the Cala Tarida water purifier had suffered significant delays and that it would not be operating in time for the summer. However, the deputy mayor made assurances that it would be completed by the end of the year.
He also confirmed that the piping which will take purified water to Cala Corral was in place, and that the housing developments in the area would receive municipal water as soon as the purifier was up and running
The Public Health Service has obliged the Town Hall of Santa Eulalia and the water provider, Aqualia, to advise customers in Cala Nova and es Canar of deficiencies in their water supply.
The periodic testing carried out by the Health Service found unusually high traces of sulphates in the water supplies of both areas, which could lead to bouts of diarrhoea in babies and the elderly.Aqualia has a total of 532 customers in the two areas, with three other private companies providing water to the rest of the zone.
However, after the advertisement was put in the local paper, the Town Hall was quick to point out that the water in no way posed a threat to the health of the public. Trying to quash alarmism amongst consumers it confirmed the water could still be used for bathing, and for all household appliances, etc, but that using it for drinking was not advised.A high salt content is common place in many parts of the island with both Santa Eulalia and San Jose badly affected. However, it could soon become a thing of the past as the project to bring purified water to all parts of the island is to get underway in the next two months. The work will link up the water network of most urban areas on the island.The project is set to cost a total of €8.9 million and will be completed by the end of 2010.
A judge in Palma has declared four buildings constructed in 2004 in Cala Llenya illegal. At the moment they will not have to be demolished, although it is unclear what the next course of action will be.Neighbours made an official complaint concerning the four three-storey buildings built by property developers Es Figueral, close to the La Joya de Cala Llenya housing development. The developers had gained the appropriate permits, but the judge decided the permission granted by the Town Hall had been done so illegally, taking into consideration a previous Land Use Plan which was now obsolete.
CRIME & INCIDENTS
A British man was ordered to pay €1,350 in compensation after damaging three cars during a row with his partner. The events occurred on the morning of 13th December as the man left a bar in the centre of San Antonio. The fines will be used to repair the damaged vehicles.
A spokesman for the Matutes empire announced on Friday that the Ibicencan businessman and former Foreign Minister, Abel Matutes, had pulled out of a deal to participate in the buying of the struggling Spanair, because the other investors wanted to move the company’s headquarters from Palma to Barcelona. Matutes made it clear from the beginning that he would only consider involvement if the company’s base remained within the Balearics. The buyout now looks set to go ahead without any Balearic businessman involved, which will certainly see the company moved to the Catalan capital.
Ibiza’s enigmatic fly half, Sebastian Santa Maria started the game with two penalty kicks from 48 and 43 meters respectively to give them an early six point lead against El Toro on Saturday. He finished the game with a recurrence of his knee injury midway through the second half after scoring an individual try from 40 meters. The enigma continues; he shows moments of genius with his silky running and handling skills and yet has failed to grow into the role of a fly half who can play the percentage game and release those around him. Sadly, for his back three, this resulted in less than a handful of plays which brought them into the game. Tactically, this was an inept decision considering El Toro did not have a full team.
El Toro travelled to Ibiza with just 13 players, although it was clear to see that many of them have experience at a higher level in the National league where they represent El Toro’s first XV. National league status is the target of Ibiza’s ambition at the end of this season and their skill levels need development if they are serious about their ambitions. El Toro’s bearded scrum half had the look of Leonidas who led the 300 Spartans, and for much of the game they held and fought with the similar admirable courage. With injury and a yellow card for a high tackle they were reduced to just 11 men midway into the second half and Ibiza should have made more of their opportunities. Playing against a big strong pack and against 11 men is the right time to use the width of the pitch, move their pack around and make space out wide and bring your back three into play. It did not happen.
Monday morning saw London in chaos as the snow fell and the system could not cope as the tube, trains, buses, planes, cars and people all ground to a halt. News reports highlight a disgruntled population whining and whingeing their way to work. As long as I can remember the first real flurry of snow in England has thrown the system out of kilter with “wrong snow” and all efforts to deal with it are as effective as Gordon Browns fiscal legacy. It clearly is the Met Offices fault, the fault of the bloke in the snow plough because he could not get to work, the Council, the Highways Commission and of course 4X4 drivers who are melting the ice cap. What I do not see a great deal of, when tough circumstances prevail, are individuals taking responsibility and dealing what faces them.
Ibiza, appear to have the same disease. When things are flowing smoothly they can play some beautiful rugby and this was evident in short spells on Saturday when the work they had done with Wayne Baraugh during the week came to life. Off- loading the ball before or during contact is a highly effective attacking weapon and was executed magnificently by Nacho Sparrano, Valentin Venteo, Sebastian “Tonga” Brito and Captain “El Uru” albeit in a spasmodic fashion.
Aiden “Master” Bates was his usual ebullient self, growing in confidence, stature and responsibility as the season progresses. Alex Berrisso at scrum half gave good supply [of ball] to his No 10 and moving to outside centre due to injuries, Jorge Garcia Roves gave a fine account of himself when he received ball, but also made the most of loose pickings to score the first try for Ibiza. Replacements for Ibiza in the shape of Victor Perro (back row) and Sebastian Sola Sacca (hooker) added a new dynamic which did bring some shape to the game albeit again in short bursts.
The bearded Leonidas, with 15 minutes remaining, turned into a hairy jacketed social worker, with leather patches on his elbow and white terry towelling socks. From Spartan warrior to stricken worrier. In fairness the odds were against him, although in the last 15 mins Ibiza were reduced to 14 having played all their bench and losing Santa Maria to his knee injury. Where once the warrior had stood tall he now winced away from playing and wanted to leave the field. His delaying tactics when the whistle blew disrupted an already fragmented game and frustrated Ibiza. A late try from Captain El Uru set up by the mercurial Nacho Sparrano with a fabulous round the corner offload out of a robust well executed tackle relieved some of the frustration.
South African referee Al Dzerefos, who is new to Balearic rugby, brought a sense of levity to his task not previously seen around these parts. His knowledge and interpretation of the laws provided a refreshing and welcome approach to refereeing. Long may it last. Communication between a bloke from Limavady and a Greek South African trying to speak Spanish about the nuances of front row play provided a fascinating, if a little surreal vignette and backdrop to the main event, thanks to Ryan Harvey. It was a moment of light relief in a tense but lacklustre performance.
This was in many ways an enigmatic performance from the whole team. On the one hand they wandered to line outs with the body language of a beleaguered and broken city banker looking for work in a snow bound Capital on Monday morning. On the other hand bursts of interplay and flashes of brilliance lit an otherwise ordinary performance with too many people looking to blame the “wrong snow” and not enough leaders who grab hold of responsibility, no matter what the conditions. A win by 50 – 0 is convincing but doesn’t tell the whole story. Next game vs Menorca on 14th February.
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!!
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