Homes & Gardens
Adventure & Sports
READY & WAITING
“The Germans have their bags packed and are waiting to reserve their holidays, but only if there are special offers.”
With these words the president of TUI, Volker Böttcher, described the current atmosphere in Germany. Along with his counterparts at Thomas Cook, Rewe and Alltours, he claimed the season would only be a success if the hotels on the island continued to launch special offers. He added that the markets, but especially families, were demanding more “all-inclusive” places, and that the island would have to offer an increased number, explaining this would be the way families could control their costs whilst on holiday.
His comments came during the ITB Berlin Travel Fair which kicked off last Wednesday, and ran on through Sunday. At the moment reservations in the German market for the Balearics are down approximately 10-20 per cent, but all four of the major operators claimed there will be significant improvements to these figures over the next few months, if prices are lowered.
All made it clear it was not they who were asking for more competitive prices, but the market which was demanding it. They added that flights to the Balearics would not be cut, and that those willing to come would be able to find seats.
Xico Tarres, president of the Island Council, backed up what had been said claiming businesses on the island had to be competitive. He added there were still 25 million Germans who had not yet booked their holidays and were willing to come away if market conditions were right. His comments were echoed by the Balearic minister for tourism, Miquel Nadal, who claimed Germany was not suffering the effects of the crisis quite as badly as other countries, and most would be prepared to travel.
The Balearic president, Francesc Antich, was upbeat about the forthcoming season, claiming the German presence in the Balearics would remain strong during 2008. He revealed that of the ten million Germans who chose to holiday in Spain last year four million chose one of the Balearic Islands. He continued that the key problem remained the British market, with the devaluation of the pound compounding even further the affects of the economic crisis. He said that while he did not expect numbers to fall dramatically, tourist spending across the region would suffer.
Despite this there was some good news when he confirmed that the Airport Authorities, (AENA), had guaranteed last minute slots at all airports, in case the last-minute market took off, ensuring tour operators would be able to schedule late flights into any of the islands.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Santa Eulalia, Vicent Mari, had the opportunity to promote the Congress Centre. With the help of the Town Councillor for Tourism, Carmen Ferrer, and a German journalist resident in the municipal, they gave a presentation regarding the possibilities offered by the centre to around 40 tour operators and travel agents.
In addition they spoke of the twelve cycle routes which have been created in the municipal.
AROUND THE ISLAND
The Island councillor in charge of planning, Miquel Ramon, has ruled out the possibility of creating a specific department dedicated to overseeing building projects, for the time being at least. The councillor said that under the current economic constraints it was inconceivable that the Island Council could afford the expense of such a department. However, he pointed to his administration’s good record in controlling restrictions until now, and admitting they had more resources than ever, making special mention of the new lawyer and inspector who had been added to the team.
The Island Council in Mallorca is in the final stages of preparing such a department, which will oversee the Town Halls and ensure all building work going on is being carried out in accordance with the permit issued. Their duties will be limited to just this, and they would not concern themselves with whether the license should or should not have been granted in the first place.
A similar department has been in operation in Menorca for the last two years, and initially had great success in controlling building projects being carried out on the island.
Despite his comments that the department would be put on hold for the time being, Ramon is keen to create such a sub-division. This is despite the inevitable resistance shown by all of the Town Halls on the island. Both San Jose and San Antonio claimed, several weeks ago, that they would be willing to discuss further the possibilities of creating such an Island Council run department, but all five insisted they were unaware of how this new system would function, and more importantly how the financing would work; (who would pay the running costs, and where the fines would eventually end up).
Ramon finished by assuring the general public of the good work his department was currently carrying out. He revealed that during the last full year under PP reign (the Conservative Peoples’ Party) a total of 34 disciplinary proceedings were begun, whilst last year his party (PSOE-ExC) opened a total of 125.
Ibiza and Formentera registered a total of 19.9 million hotel nights during 2008, down from the previous year. However, although the figure fell by 812,349 nights from 2007, it was up on both 2005 and 2006, where there were a total of 17.7 million and 19.1 million nights recorded.
Low season saw the biggest fall, with 1.6 million nights, down approximately 19.8 per cent from the previous year, with the positive news being the fact that high season managed to maintain around the same number of nightly stays as in 2007 - 15 million.
However, 2009 did not get off to a very auspicious start with hotel stays down 54.4 per cent in comparison to January 08. This was blamed on the late arrival this year of the Imserso tourists, who have come in smaller numbers than ever. The pattern was followed across the country with a 12 per cent drop in hotel stays, and this despite a drop in the average room price by 2.6 per cent.
The figures, released by the National Institute of Statistics, came as Italian tour operators announced difficulties in the sale of holiday packages to the island. The majority said things would become more clear in a month, whilst warning that the global economic crisis would undoubtedly affect sales, and they would be very much dependant on offers being successful.
And it seems things will not be improving in April, as the president of the Hotel Association on the island, Juanjo Riera, claimed that most of his members would be remaining closed during Easter due to a lack of demand which he blamed on a shortage of flights to the island.
The Coastal Authority (Costas) began disciplinary action against a total of 64 individuals/companies in Ibiza and Formentera last year, a fall of nearly 50 per cent from 2007. Of this total just 21 have reached a conclusion, of which 17 resulted in fines being handed out to the tune of €103,000, although it should be noted that just €4,000 of this has so far been paid with the remainder being appealed against.
The majority involved the illegal use of sun-beds and parasols, with the municipal of San Jose accounting for nearly half of the cases.
Meanwhile, the president of the Hotel Federation, Juanjo Riera, has demanded the main beaches on the island be cleaned by the start of the Easter holidays. He claimed he was already in talks with the Town Halls of Ibiza Town, San Jose and Santa Eulalia to ensure that at least the most popular are ready for the arrival of the first tourists of the season. The beaches in question include all of those within Ibiza Town, s’Arenal to Punta Pinet in San Antonio/San Jose, Playa den Bossa and the main beach in Santa Eulalia. He said the rest could wait until after the Easter break, but that provisions needed to be made from now to avoid the last-minute rush to get everything ready.
He also called on the authorities to reduce airport tax in Ibiza to ensure tourist numbers did not fall in 2009. He said the island had to remain competitive, and a lowering of airport tax would ensure this was possible.
The Island Council responded towards the end of the week confirming that all of the main beaches on the island would be clean and ready for use by Easter, and that they would continue to maintain them until the end of May, when the Town Halls would take over.
The Balearic Islands has come fourth on a list of money spent on tourist promotion of the various autonomous regions in Spain. In 2008 the islands spent a total of €23.6 million on promoting the islands to the outside world. However, the amount pales into insignificance compared to the totals spent by both Andalusia, which spent €87.5 million, and the Canaries with a cost of €59.5 million. Third on the list is Catalunya which spent €28.6 million, with Valencia’s €22.7 million in fifth place, and with Madrid spending €18 million in sixth place.
However, the figure was criticised as too low by some who claimed that if you calculated the amount spent on each tourist who visited the Balearics - €2.30, the Islands came second to last on the list.
The Rafa Nadal ad campaign is currently hitting televisions around Germany and will be heading for UK sets by next week.
Meanwhile, at the ITB Fair in Berlin, President Xico Tarres announced his administration would be spending a total of €900,000 over the next two months on the promotion of the island in all of its main markets, all of which would be part of a €3.6 million package pumped into the Balearics advertising pool, according to Balearic president, Francesc Antich.
The marketing will be carried out in collaboration with Turespaña (the National Tourist Office) and Ibatur (the Balearic Islands Tourist Office), under the slogan of “Smile, you are in Ibiza”. Countries targeted will include Britain, Germany, Italy, France and the Benelux countries.
In addition Formentera is to receive €300,000, with most of the budget being spent on the key Italian market.
During the latest quarterly meeting of the Spanish towns and cities named World Heritage Sites, all agreed that a united effort would be needed to try and combat the economic downturn. At the meeting, which took place in Ibiza, most commented that they thought cultural tourism would be less affected than “sun and sea” tourism, although representatives from Salamanca, a World Heritage Site since 1988, commented they had already seen a lowering of tourist spend which had in turn led them to reduce prices at museums and visits to the Old City, to ensure visitors had enough money left in their pockets to spend elsewhere in the town.
Basking sharks were spotted close to es Freus by a number of sailors last week. The protected species are no direct threat to humans and only eat plankton, although experts have warned people not to try and approach the animals, who, due to their sheer size, can prove dangerous to swimmers. At least three separate pods have been discovered, and they are not uncommon to the island.
The basking shark, Cetorhinus maximus, is the second largest living fish, after the whale shark. It is a cosmopolitan species, which is found in all the world's temperate oceans. It is a slow moving and generally harmless filter feeder. However, like other large sharks, basking sharks could, some day, be at risk of extinction due to a combination of low resilience and overfishing if good conservation practices are not followed.
This shark is called the basking shark because it is most often observed when feeding at the surface and appears to be basking. The largest specimen accurately measured was trapped in a herring net in the Bay of Fundy, Canada in 1851. Its total length was 12.27 metres (40.3 ft), and it weighed an estimated 19 tons, although basking sharks over 8 metres are now extremely rare due to over-fishing.
They have few predators, but orcas and tiger sharks are known to feed on them.
The Economic Minister for the Balearic Government, Carles Manera, announced his administration would be paying off bills to businesses and Town Halls to the tune of around €55 million over the next week, to ensure they remained liquid during the economic crisis.
The Govern currentlyowes around €150 million to various companies across the region for work carried out, as well as to some Town Halls. They will take out a number of short term loans to ensure a third of these can be settled immediately, whilst promising the rest of the money will not be far behind.
Manera explained that the loans currently being signed would be paid off by the end of the year, when the Govern finalises a €700 million financing package with the banks.
Meanwhile, Island Councillor Marga Torres announced the Council would be reducing subsidies in 2009 by €1.7 million, in its attempts to cut costs.
The new port in es Botafoc moved a step closer last week as the central Port Authority in Madrid gave the project its blessing. The plans will now be officially published and bids for the work accepted. This process should be completed by July, with work likely to begin towards the end of the tourist season. If there are no unforeseen delays during the building process the new port should be up and running in two years, at a cost of €94 million, €13 million more than had been previously announced by the president of the Port Authority, Francesc Triay, the increase being put down to VAT.
The four administrations involved, the Balearic Government, Island Council, Town Hall of Ibiza and the Port Authority, eventually agreed to reduce the size of the docking platform between the current wharf and es Botafoc marina by 17,000m2. The final size will be 63,000m2, and will include the new ferry station.
The project also won the approval of the majority of the ExC party, which forms a coalition with the ruling PSOE party in both the Island Council and Town Hall, after plans to build an access tunnel through s’Illa Plana were scrapped.
The solar panels which have stood on the terrace of the council building for the last seven years will, at last, be put into action. Island Councillor for the Environment, Albert Prats, announced on Tuesday that his administration had carried out the necessary work to ensure the panels would be working by the end of the year.
They will be used to supply around 15 per cent of the electricity used in the building, and could save the administration around €15,500 a year, as well as reducing CO2 emissions by 11.5 tonnes.
The panels were originally installed by the former PSOE Government back in July 2002. However, they were ousted before the panels could be put into operation. The incoming PP party did not take advantage of the panels, and so they were left “like part of the furniture” until Prats arrived.
The councillor explained that the project had also involved the installation of similar panels in the Cas Serres multi-purpose building, as well as in a number of primary schools in Santa Eulalia. Although some of these had been turned on at some time, none were being used to their potential. He explained that in addition to supplying the buildings, any excess produced would be sold on to GESA.
As the price of natural gas continued to fall across the globe it appears the customer is about to see some benefit, as the minister for industry, Miguel Sebastian, announced the price of a butano would come down from 1st April to €10.50. This will mean a 22.4 per cent drop from its current price of €13.50.
The hearing into the Eivissa Centre scandal continued on Monday with two more key witnesses interviewed. The councillor for planning, Vicent Torres, and his predecessor, Antonio Roldán, both took centre stage as the judge continued to probe into the possible payment of bribes by the company eventually awarded the Eivissa Centre project, Brues S.A, the aim of which was to completely renovate the town centre.
The first to be questioned was Roldán who denied any knowledge of the bribes, claiming the first he knew about it was when the story was uncovered by the press. He continued by denying any knowledge of a suspected meeting between the former mayor, and now president of the Island Council, Xico Tarres, with various leading members of the PSOE party to talk about the building of new party headquarters, to be paid for with the bribes.
For his part Torres claimed he could not remember any of the conversations in which he was involved concerning the case. The judge played him two recordings taken in secret by Roque Lopez, who uncovered the entire scandal just weeks before the last elections. Torres said the recordings were too poor for him to recognise his own voice, and that he could not remember any details of what was said. The recordings played included an extract in which fellow Councillor, Sandra Mayans, claimed she was ordered by Torres to go and collect an envelope from an unnamed businessman.
When questioned about the license he claimed that the Juan XXIII building at the centre of the row had always possessed a permit. However, he blamed the constructor for not following the plans, adding that he was to blame for the over-building denounced by a member of the public.
These claims were denied by the Town Hall the following day with Mayor Lurdes Costa issuing a statement denying Torres had blamed Brues S.A., stating that what he had meant to say was that he was unaware of who had given the order to construct more than the original permit allowed.
A fishing boat based in Ibiza Town suffered damage to its netting after allegedly getting caught up in the new gas pipes laid down last month. The secretary of the fishing fleet in Ibiza Town, Xico Cardona, said the damage caused to the nets was in excess of €2,500, and would not be covered by their insurance policy.
He called for the fleet to be included in the deal struck by the fleet of Palma and San Antonio which guaranteed them compensation if their nets were damaged by the pipe. He said they had been excluded because Enagas, the company responsible for the pipeline which is set to bring natural gas to the island, said the area affected was not fished by the boats based in Ibiza. He said this was untrue, and that they had fished the area affected for years.
The Town Hall of Ibiza has begun to draw up plans for an underground car park in Isidor Macabich which will be included as part of the Eivissa Centre project. The exact details of the car park remain sketchy, and sources say they are still not sure if the places will be sold outright or rented. The exact location has still not been decided, as it is still not clear which buildings will go where.
The Ministry of Defence has put on sale the last buildable piece of land in avenida 8 d´Agost. The road leading down towards Botafoc has seen huge growth over the last 15 years, leaving just one solitary plot, owned by the State. The piece of land is located directly behind the luxury Ibiza Gran hotel and bids for the 5,137m2 piece of land will start off at €11.93 million, giving each m2 a price of €2,323.
However, the final figure could vary considerably because if no-one meets the asking price it can be reduced at a further two auctions by 15 per cent.
Those interested will have until 30th March to enter a bid in a sealed envelope.
The mayor of Ibiza Town, Lurdes Costa, unveiled the restoration work carried out in parts of the Old Town on Monday. The work, which took a total of four months, involved the cleaning and restoration of Ses Taules, el Portal Nou and el Patio de Armas. The main task involved cleaning the moss and dirt from the stoned wall, which had threatened to cause permanent damage.
The entire project cost around €350,000, 75 per cent of which was paid by the Spanish Ministry of Public Works, (Fomento).
The authorities were trying to find solutions last week to the damage caused to the walkway built in 2006 on top of the breakwater. Both the wooden floor and stainless steel handrails were severely damaged during the high winds two weeks ago, which also affected the marina.
A spokesman for the environmental department of the Balearic Government explained that a meeting had taken place between the Port Authority, Town Hall, Club Nautico and themselves to try and find a solution to the problem. All agreed that the damage would need to be repaired before the start of the tourist season, although it seems clear nothing will be done until after Easter. However, removing the walkway, which covers the length of the breakwater, has not been ruled out if a permanent solution cannot be found. In the meantime it will be transferred to a more sheltered part of the marina.
Thursday saw the start of a new initiative in San Antonio, organised to show the town is not just a summer resort. Around 20 bars and restaurants in the area have signed up to a programme called “Pintxa Sant Antoni” which will see all of the establishments offering a beer or wine, and a tapas, for €2.00. The first week proved a huge success with most of the establishments full to bursting. Those lucky enough to go along were treated to the special combo for the economical price of €1.00. The program will continue for the next three Thursdays, with a list of those restaurants and bars participating available from the Town Hall, or any of the establishments in the programme.
On Tuesday the deputy mayor, Joan Pantaleoni, revealed the mayor had paid the first of the fines ordered by the judge in the Cretu case. The Supreme Court ruled Jose Sala was responsible for the delay in the demolition of the mansion, which is now 18 months overdue. He was then ordered to pay €1,000 every month up to July, and then €600 each week until the court order is carried out. Pantaleoni revealed the mayor had appealed against the decision, but that in the meantime he would be paying the fines. It is not clear if anyone else from his administration chipped in to help, although his deputy assured everyone Sala had paid the money from his own pockets.
Meanwhile, Pantaleoni revealed the Town Hall was still waiting for the court to issue a permit to allow them forced entry on to the premises, with the company who won the contract to carry out the work, waiting in the wings.
The campaign against the new costal law (ley de costas) hit the headlines once again last week as their spokesman, Tomas Suarez, said at least 90 houses would be affected within the municipality. The official coastal markings in San Juan have now been made, with many properties now falling within the barriers and set to become state properties.
The new law has caused much controversy across the region, especially in Formentera, and basically comes down to the new coastal measurements which are currently being marked out across the country. The line is defined by the highest point reached by the waves during a storm. However, Suarez claims there would need to be waves reaching 80 metres if the water was to reach some of the areas marked by the plan in San Juan. Incidentally, the highest wave ever recorded in the area is 22 metres. He claimed if the same rules are applied when marking the coastal area in Ibiza Town, most of the centre is going to have to be redefined State property.
Half of the houses affected are in the area of Faro de Portinatx.
The town councillor for planning in Santa Eulalia, Mariano Juan, announced on Tuesday that work would begin this week on three of the 32 projects to be carried out by the municipality during the next two years. The first, which is already underway, involves the resurfacing of Cami de L´Horta, which extends from avenida 8 d’Agost to Jesus. The work, which will be carried out by the company Agloisa, will take three months and cost €122,000.
The second project, which also began last week, will see the same company asphalt the Ca na Poua area on the San Miguel road. This will take two months and cost €45,000.
The final project, which began on Thursday, will involve improvements to the street lighting to sa Font d´es Ierns on the Cala Llonga road.
Also underway last week was work to remove architectural barriers in four municipal buildings in the Town. The work will ensure easier access for wheelchair users, and will include the local police station and Club Nautico.
The councillor for tourism on the island, Bartomeu Mayans, on Wednesday revealed that there could be up to 23,000 illegal tourist beds on the island. The startling statistic is more than three times the number of official places registered on the island, and leaves the council with quite a headache.
Mayans said he was against altogether banning the illegal establishments, as it would leave the island significantly short of beds. However, he recognised something had to be done, with the best option legalising all of the beds.
Officially there are 4,677 hotel and 3,019 apartment beds in Formentera, making a total of 7,696.
The news came as Mayans revealed a total of 151 rural properties had been given authorization to sell themselves as tourist establishments, putting a further 1,000 beds on the market.
CRIME & INCIDENTS
The man arrested on suspicion of committing two bank robberies last summer has been released. The judge hearing the case decided there was not enough evidence to find the 24-year-old Italian youth guilty, adding that nearly all of the evidence against the defendant came from the declaration of two people who had, in turn, been questioned for the robbery themselves. Additionally no items of value had been found at the man’s home, and there was no sign of the money. There was also no evidence linking him with the weapon used in the attack.
The robberies took place at the sa Nostra branch in Jesus and Banca March on avenida Bartomeu Rosello in Ibiza Town. A total of €24,687 was taken during the two attacks, which are destined to go unsolved.
The 80-year-old Italian man who fell 15-metres into the sea when the walkway connecting the cruise ship, MSC Fantasia, to the terminal in Palma collapsed during high winds, remained in intensive care through the week. Three other people were injured in the accident, although the most serious was the Italian who hit his head against the side of the ship. Although his condition remains serious, doctors claimed it had improved slightly.
The three individuals arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of a man on a San Jose restaurant terrace have been sent to prison. Although no-one was found guilty of the crime, whilst investigating the case police stumbled upon a house in Illescas, Toledo, which was packed with firearms, drugs and fake identities. Each was sentenced to 11 years in jail by a court in Toledo.
As the economic crisis continued there were calls for the PSOE-run Government to make a series of changes to the outdated labour laws currently in place. The worry is obvious; the country has gone from creating over a third of new jobs within the EU five years ago to laying off 40,000 people each week. Critics say that the tough labour legislation ensures businesses are scared to contract staff, preferring to hire people on short term contracts. It appears something will have to be done as the country’s unemployment rate raced towards 20 per cent.
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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