Homes & Gardens
Adventure & Sports
Too Little Too Late
The retail sector braced itself for one of the most aggressive sales on record, as stores try to recover the losses of 2008. The January Sales started last Wednesday with discounts reaching 50 to 70 per cent in some shops. The more economical the store, the busier it was. However, shoppers bought exactly what they had come for and most were not tempted by any little extras, despite the huge discounts on offer.The representative for commerce at Pimee, (the association for small and medium sized businesses), Jose Javier Mari Noguera, revealed that any discounts falling below 15 to 20 per cent would go unnoticed in comparison to the larger reductions. He predicted that the first two weeks would be positive due to the huge discounts on offer, but claimed he had no idea how the rest of the period would pan out. He added that most retailers would use the sales to try and recover some of the losses recorded during the Christmas period which averaged around 20 per cent. This is in addition to falls of between 10 and 15 per cent recorded over the season.Similarly, Encarna Planells of Prodeco, the association of retailers, commented that most customers had controlled their spending during the year, and the next four weeks would be no different. She said compulsive purchases would be at a minimum, with customers only buying what they genuinely needed.
Looking ahead to this Spring and Summer, Planells revealed that most of her members were currently buying stock with great caution, and always paying attention to the quality-price ratio. She admitted the days had gone where you could sell anything on the island, at any price. Retailers were obviously not going to under-buy as they had a service to offer, but all were being more prudent when making their purchases for the year.
This Christmas it seems records and perfumes were the biggest winners as shoppers continued to tighten their belts, with jewellery and books those sectors to suffer most.
There is a clear code of conduct during the sales period which all stores are obliged to adhere to. These include the fact that all items on sale need to be this season’s and cannot be items especially bought in for the sales. The price, both before and after the discount, needs to be clearly indicated on each item. Any shop announcing discounts needs to put a minimum of 50 per cent of their stock on sale. Finally, retailers are not obliged to change items which are not faulty, so customers will need to check the returns policy of each separate establishment if they are in any doubt.
AROUND THE ISLAND
As predicted earlier in the year the number of unemployed crashed through the 10,000 barrier as the year came to an end. On 31st December there were a total of 10,285 people out of work in Ibiza and Formentera, 37.5 per cent more than this time last year.
In Ibiza the figure reached 9,795, which is 351 more than in November, and 2,717 (38.4 per cent) more than the 2007 figure. The increase was less marked in Formentera with the figure rising 21.6 per cent in comparison to last year’s total.
Not surprisingly the construction sector was the most affected with 2,598 people out of work, 95.6 per cent more than last year. However, it is the service sector which provides the most unemployed with 6,683 in total, of which 2,978 are linked to the hospitality sector, 1,380 to retail and 2,325 to other non-specified service sectors.
These rises coincided with a fall in those registered to work, down from 61,936 to 52,065, which meant unemployment affected 15 per cent of the working population, its highest level for 15 years.Additional figures showed that 42 per cent of the total number of unemployed were living in the capital, and that in Ibiza 6,327 people had not worked at all during 2008.Meanwhile, the Central Government’s delegate to the island, Ramon Socias, claimed the rise in the number of unemployed would not necessarily lead to an increase in crime. He said it was the administration’s responsibility to ensure no-one was left unprotected, and forced to commit crime to put food on the table, adding the theory that a rise in unemployment led to higher crime was pure myth.
In the Balearics the number of unemployed hit a 12-year high, as 73,298 people saw in the New Year on the dole.
On a national scale the figure rose during the year by 999,416 people, with 3,128,963 currently out of work on 31st December 2008, the highest figure ever recorded in Spain.
The controversial hotelier Fernando Ferré, owner of Grupo Playa Sol (GPS) has been fined a total of €3,982,000 by the Social Security department for irregularities in the contracting of numerous workers at his hotels. The fine comes after numerous visits to six of Ferre’s hotels which included San Remo, Costa Sur, the Maritimo, the Nautilus, all of which are in Cala de Bou, as well as the Mare Nostrum in Playa den Bossa. This is in addition to several visits to the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Ibiza Town.
€2.1 million of the total fine is in relation to 71 cases uncovered, in which GPS had illegally placed workers on self-employment (autonomo) contracts, when they did not have permission to be working as such.
The rest of the fine, €1,872,901, was given for not registering around 300 workers brought from Eastern Europe with the Social Security office. GPS contracted the workers via a Recruitment Consultancy in the Czech Republic, and all were registered to the social security system there, when they should have been registered in Spain. This is believed to have saved Ferre tens of thousands of euros in social security tax.The secretary of the Workers Union, UGT, Pepe Pedrido, said the sentence was a reminder to all businesses that illegal practices would be punished. He continued that GPS was not the only company who bent the rules, and encouraged employees to make official complaints if they believed they were not being treated fairly.
Flu on its Way
The at-risk category was put on red alert as a predicted flu epidemic was set to hit the island. The Balearic Health Minister, Vicens Thomas, said the virus would hit during the third week in January, with those over 65, and people with chest conditions warned to take special care. This will of course put a huge strain on Can Misses but doctors remain confident they will be able to cope.
At the moment the incidence of flu in the Balearics is around 43.5 of every 100,000 inhabitants. This is set to rise to 135 within two weeks, according to experts.The main preventative medicine remains a flu jab which is available at all local health centres.
After months of discussions it was eventually revealed that the Airport Authorities, (AENA), would include a total of five “fingers” in the new plans for the airport. These walkways, which will enable plane passengers to go straight from the plane to the terminal, were demanded by both island representatives in Madrid. However, AENA had received pressure from a number of airlines not to include the new features as the companies will be charged €100 every time they use them.
It seems it’s not all bad news, as tour operators claimed the crisis affecting the more traditional markets would open up a window of opportunity to tourism from the East. Around 10,000 Russians visited the island last year, a figure experts predict will rise in 2009 as hoteliers look for alternative markets due to the falls which have been forecast in the British, German and Spanish markets.
Jose Cañellas, the man at the helm of NT Incoming, the Spanish affiliate of the Russian tour operator Natalie Tours, explained that these countries were not suffering as much due to the crisis, as their economies were emerging and still had room for growth. He continued that most were looking for sun and sea holidays, which meant the island was perfect, adding that there was a genuine interest in the island from various East European countries including Russia, Hungary and the Ukraine.
The production of wine on the island fell in 2008, due mainly to a decrease in the production of grapes. All varieties were affected, with the total falling from 1,026 hectolitres in 2007 to 904 hectolitres last year. Rosés were the worst hit proportionally, falling from 218 hectolitres to 168.Red continues to be the most produced wine, with a total of 473 hectolitres, down 43 from last year, with whites also falling from 288 hectolitres to 263.
However, it was not a similar story in Formentera where production was up overall from 238 to 255 hectolitres, with white wine being the highest climber.
The councillor for transport, Albert Prats, announced on Tuesday that work would start immediately on the re-surfacing on the San Juan road. The improvements had been planned to take place towards the end of 2009, along with several other highways. However, Prats revealed the recent rainfall had increased the rate of degradation of this particular road, which has meant the work has become urgent. The councillor admitted that the opportunity would now be taken to carry out all of the planned work on the road which is set to cost the Island Council €150,000. In addition to this project, the Town Hall of San Juan announced it would be spending around €700,000 on improvements to the stretch of road in sa Punta Grossa, Cala San Vicente. It is one of two proposed projects for 2009, the other being the upgrading of the sports stadium on the San Juan-San Miguel road.
To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 the Observatory in Mallorca announced a year-long tour which will visit every municipality on the four islands. The event will feature a range of shows and include replicas of the telescopes used by Galileo Galilei, as well as other more modern models. The tour will start in March 2009, although a full programme has yet to be published.The International Year of Astronomy 2009 will kick-off this year with an opening ceremony at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris this week. Many Nobel Prize winners will be in attendance as well as scientists from around the globe, and young astronomy undergraduate students from more than 100 countries. The event is a global celebration of astronomy and its contribution to society and culture, with strong emphasis on education, public participation and the involvement of young people, with events at national, regional, and global levels.
Balearia, the company which runs the ferries connecting the islands to the peninsula announced on Friday it would be removing the fuel surcharge from the ticket price from 19th January. Due to the high rise in the price of fuel earlier in the year, the company announced in June it would be applying an additional fee to all tickets, to compensate.The charge amounted to €11 per person and €13 per car on the fast-ferry, and €7 and €9 respectively on the regular ferry. This was slightly less on the route between Ibiza and Mallorca, and just €0.50 per passenger between Ibiza and Formentera.
This Monday will see Gwyneth Paltrow’s On the Road Again series broadcast on the UK Food Channel. In the 60 minute episode called “Island Hopping” the Hollywood star is joined by top chef Mario Batali, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols, as they discover the culinary delights of Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca.
The series, which saw the quartet cross Spain, is described as "featuring all the glamour of Hollywood lifestyle with the strong traditions of Spanish cuisine. It is a must for any lover of fiery flavours and sun-kissed surroundings." Paltrow is a fluent Spanish speaker having studied the language whilst at university, and studied in Spain during her GAP year.
The programme will begin at 9p.m. and be repeated again all day on Tuesday.
Balearic residents came 5th in a countrywide survey into the viewing habits of people living in Spain. The television was on in the average Balearic household for around three hours and 50 minutes every day during last year, according to the study, a rise of three minutes from 2007.The autonomous region of Aragon came top of the pile with inhabitants spending an average of four hours and 10 minutes in front of the box.Alarmingly the report showed 3.5 million people watched more than 10 hours of television every day, that’s 8 per cent of the population!
As temperatures on the island reached freezing, it was chaos elsewhere in the country on Friday, as heavy snowfall disrupted road and rail transportation. All four runways at Madrid's Barajas airport, one of Europe's busiest, were closed at 11.50a.m. with a total of 1,205 flights scheduled to take off and land at the airport. It was a similar story on the roads as the arctic conditions caught everyone by surprise, and caused huge traffic jams on most major roads in and out of the capital.
Meanwhile, Palma saw its heaviest snowfall in 25 years, with many mountain roads closed for most of Friday. Conditions were no better on the island as San Juan hit -3ºC and parts of San Jose -1º.
The Island Council is studying the possibility of charging for some services offered by the fire brigade on the island. Councillor Albert Prats claimed at the moment it was just an idea, and that the exact circumstances of exactly when the service would come at a cost were still not clear.Prats used the example of two firemen who had to travel to San Juan on Christmas Eve to open the bathroom door for a person who had become trapped inside. The family were outside listening, a clear case of a non-emergency which could be charged for in the future.
Prats made it clear the Council would not pursue those with a bill who could not afford the service, but with the Council wanting to improve the service, and the Administration struggling for cash, it seems there remains little option.
In our story last week about Pamela being awarded an MBE we mistakenly wrote that it was Pamela who decided to organise the first fair at the Monterrey. She has called us to confirm she had helped her good friend, Gordon Standforth, who came up with the idea and decided to organise the fair whilst he was recovering from cancer.
Two of the four car parks next to the old bull-ring in Ibiza Town remained open last week, despite the threat by the owners that they would close them after the Three Kings holiday on the 6th January.
The dispute began several weeks ago after the owners of the land in the area known as ses Feixes were not given the specific building permission they requested from the Town Hall. This is despite the fact they have let the Administration use the land as a public car park for the last ten years. Angered by the Town Hall’s refusal the owners of the land immediately closed two of the car parks by placing large rocks at the entrance and exits. However, they kept the other two car parks in operation, explaining they were willing to talk to the authorities and come to a solution. However, this dialogue has so far not been forthcoming on the part of the Town Hall, which has forced the landowners to place a security guard at the entrance/exit, who is allowing cars to leave but not to re-enter. When all of the cars have eventually been moved, the area will be fenced off and the two remaining car parks will be closed.Mayor Lurdes Costa acknowledged the Town Hall had so far not entered into negotiations with the landowners, but assured them it would not be pressurized into changing their decision. She admitted she could not force the owners of private land to open it up for public use, whilst explaining an alternative solution would have to be found. She said that the municipality suffered the usual problems of a small town which had too many cars, suggesting the blue parking zones would be extended further around the town. This will definitely include ses Figueretes, with the mayor not ruling out the possibility of introducing it to the ses Feixes area as well.
The authorities in San Antonio have warned that the beach at s’Arenal could disappear in the future. The findings come after a study into the bay’s “black-spots” confirmed the main problem was caused by the jetty which currently separates the promenade from the beach. The study showed that this is acting as a buffer zone and stopping the sand from returning naturally to the beach. It is a process known as cul-de-sacing, and means the beach is prevented recouping the land naturally that it loses after storms and standard movement.
In May 2002 the Environmental Department at the Balearic Government oversaw a project which eventually brought a total of 35,000m2 of sand to the beach.The technicians working for the Town Hall said they had informed both the Port Authority, who are responsible for the jetty, and the Environmental Department, the latter promising to carry out a full-scale study once the new marina (Club Nautico) is completed.
The report also commented negatively on the number of boats which had sunk in the area in recent years, and had been left to rot at the bottom of the sea. As well as creating pollution, these vessels have also affected the sea-grass which protects the beach during stormy weather. The report also says that the uncontrolled mooring of ships across the bay needed to be better controlled, a problem which the mayor, Jose Sala, has acknowledged for years. The snag remains the high price of refloating the vessels, and the fact that insurance companies are unwilling to cover the expensive procedure.
However, his accusations were dismissed by the vice-president of the Balearic Port Authority, Manuel Patiño, who said the opposite was actually true. He explained that every beach which had had sand added to it artificially needed some kind of jetty to stop it disappearing once again. If this barrier was taken away Patiño insists the beach would disappear far more quickly. Despite this he promised to carry out a full study after the renovations in Club Nautico were completed.
On the subject of the sunken boats, the vice-president conceded that all of the vessels which did sink in the area needed to be re-floated due to the risk they carried to the environment, but he suggested the situation was not as bad as the Town Hall claimed. He said the water at s’Arenal was excellen, which explained why the beach had been awarded a blue flag.
Whilst the company in charge of the demolition of the Cretu mansion claimed it was ready to begin work, the Romanian music producer presented a list of over 1,000 objects which he claims need to be removed from the property before the bulldozers move in.The demolition notice states that anything that can be saved will be. However, it does so, according to Cretu’s lawyer, Jaume Roig, in “a generic and imprecise way”. He claims all his client wants to do is know from the start exactly what can be preserved.
Councillor Joan Pantaleoni did not wish to go into too much detail but claimed the Town Hall’s experts were studying the matter, and that the issue would be resolved in a matter of days.
Post Office Move
Whilst urgent renovation work takes place at the post office in San Antonio, it has been temporarily moved to the old Town Hall in passeig de Ses Fonts. The short-term relocation will continue for at least the next three months while work takes place to modernise the building. Owners of post-boxes will need to contact the local post office to ask for a change of key as temporary boxes will be used in the meantime.
Club Nautico in San Antonio will finally build a new social centre following much debate about the original plans. The original project intended to modify the current building, making it slightly bigger. However, it has now been decided it would be easier to demolish the existing centre and start again.
The centre, which contains the bar and restaurant, as well as offices, will be designed by the same architect responsible for the original building, Javier Planas, which was completed in 1996.The new plans are ready and will be sent to the Port Authority later this week for approval, after which time they will be put on public display towards the end of February, with Planas hoping work can begin once the 2009 tourist season has ended.
Planas explained that the original idea had been to add to the existing building. However, it was decided that due to the fact the construction is supported on structures anchored to the sea bed, it would be a better idea to demolish the existing building and construct new supports for the building.
The new centre will have a surface area of around 500m2, slightly more than the existing building, but it will also be built on two floors. The managing director of Club Nautico, Joan Vicent Roselló, explained it would have a limited visual impact thanks to the use of windows, with the southern-side completely made up of glass.
The mayor of San Antonio has indicated he would be happy for someone else to take over the presidency of the PP-party in San Antonio. The news comes on the back of comments by the new president of the party on the island, Miguel Jerez, that it was now time to let the next generation take the reigns.
Sala is currently the only PP-mayor who is also president of their party within the municipal, a situation which could change soon after the mayor’s recent remarks.It is predicted the presidents will also change in Santa Eulalia and San Jose, as the party tries to make a fresh start.
New Councillor Elected
December saw Lucia Alexia Prats Maffin take her place as part of the opposition party in San Antonio. Lucia, who is the grand-daughter of popular residents, Harry and Barbara Maffin, became the newest councillor for the PSOE-ExC opposition party, substituting Marga Serra who stepped down.Lucia is a psychologist and criminologist, and has been a member of the PSOE party for the last four years, recently becoming president of the Young Socialists. She will be involved in the areas of environment, youth and sports.
A total of 666,252 people visited the beach at ses Salinas in 2008, according to the Environmental Department at the Island Council. This was a similar number to those who went to both Illetes and Llevant in Formentera (616,000), and significantly more than those recorded at es Cavallet (252,663). To this figure one needs to add the 6,620 boats which used the ecological buoys set up under the Life Posidonia programme. This takes the total to more than 1,500,000 visitors, just 2,000 of whom came on an environmental visit.
The figures were produced as the Island Council looks for a solution to what it called the massification of the ses Salinas Natural Park during the summer months. A study is to be carried out in the next few months as to how best control the access of vehicles into the natural park, the maximum number allowed in and the location of the car park on the outskirts of the park, from where people will be able to access the area by bus.Meanwhile, the Town Hall of San Jose insisted it was still searching for the owners of the old “Dolphin Park” in the heart of ses Salinas, which has been lying in ruins for nearly twenty years. The area consists of several large swimming pools which need to be demolished, but this cannot be done until the new owners are found. The councillor for planning, Josep Antoni Prats, insisted that it was the responsibility of the owners to carry out the work, when they could be found.
This week Santa Eulalia began the first stage of the project they hope will bring the municipality’s river back to life. The work will cost a total of €84,400 and be financed by the Island Council’s Employment Department.The initial stage will involve six people carrying out a general cleaning and maintenance of the area, which will include the elimination and cleaning of plants and trees, over the next six months,.This will be the first stage of a long process which the Town Hall hopes will end with the river becoming a focal point for both residents and tourists wishing to learn more about the only river in the Balearics and the natural habitat which surrounds it.
The project is being run by the Island Council in parallel with a number of other schemes which aim to put people back into work. A second project unveiled last week will involve a team of 21 people who will be responsible for the restoration and maintenance of everything from roundabouts to stone walls across the island.
The Island Council of Formentera will spend its share of the money dished out by the Central Government on roads and improving the WIFI service. The president of the Central Government, Jose Luis Zapatero, announced a series of subsidies to create public work to help take people off the dole and back into employment. Formentera will receive €1.5 million which will be spent on re-surfacing a number of roads including Portossalè, Punta Prima, es Ca Marí, and the stretch which joins San Ferran with es Pujols. The councillor for planning, Bartomeu Escandell, explained that all were in poor condition and the work was urgent.
The other project which the Council has put forward is the introduction of a WIFI service which Escandell hopes can cover the entire island.
CRIME & INCIDENTS
A police search was underway for two men who raided a store on avenida Ignacio Wallis on Thursday. The attack took place at 9.30 a.m. as the manager opened up the shop, Women’s Secret, on her own. As one of the men stood outside to prevent anyone else from entering, the other threatened the assistant and ordered her to hand over the previous day’s takings. The amount taken was said to be between €5,000 and €10,000, substantially more than normal as Wednesday had been the first day of the sales.
After taking the money, he tied the woman up by her hands and feet with tape and left her in one of the changing rooms. Both then casually left the shop.Fortunately a colleague of the woman came in to the store just moments after the attack and untied the shocked victim. The police were called and an investigation has been launched.
Police caught a total of 32 people drink-driving during December, it was announced last week, whilst in the Balearics as a whole the figure reached 202. This brings the number of people stopped whilst driving under the effects of alcohol on the four islands to 4,157, two per cent of those who were stopped, according to police.The figures were released whilst an alarming survey showed that most drivers in Spain were unaware of the quantities of alcohol they were able to consume. In the study carried out by the Automobile Club of Cataluña, drivers were asked how much they thought they were able to drink before reaching the 0.25 milligrams per litre permitted. Sixty-seven per cent believed most men could consume up to five shots of spirits before reaching the limit, and women two shots. If any had been caught after consuming such quantities they would have been more than double the permitted limit.The report also revealed that 88 per cent of drivers believed the limit should be zero for those drivers who had only recently passed their test.
A British man was being held by police last week after threatening a woman with a knife. The incident began in the capital’s centre after the 39-year-old hit the victim’s car whilst he was driving under the effects of alcohol. An argument soon ensued, and the man produced the knife. He was quickly subdued by victim’s friends, before being taken to the local station where a body search revealed he was carrying two penknives and a knife.
NEWS FROM THE MAINLAND
The Spanish photographer, Jose Cendon, who was captured in Somalia back in November, has been released after 38 days. Cendon was kidnapped with British journalist, Colin Freeman, on 26th November as they were both covering a piracy story in the troubled country for the Telegraph’s website.Freeman told the paper “We’re absolutely fine and delighted to be out. We’ve absolutely no problems at all, either physically or mentally,” while Cendon confirmed they were both in good health and that they had both helped each other throughout the ordeal. “We tried to cheer each other up all the time,” he said.
Both men were snatched by the bodyguards escorting them to Boosaaso airport, and then held in mountains south west of the port city. They explained that they lived most of the time in caves and were moved a few times to avoid being discovered by the authorities and rival gangs. “We survived on rice, goat meat and Rothmans,” said Freeman. “I gave up smoking in 1992 and somehow decided now would be a good time to start up again.”
Cendon’s sister declared no ransom had been paid and that at no time were any demands made by the kidnappers. Similarly, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos confirmed the two men had been freed after a series of negotiations, and denied any money had been paid.
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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