Surprise fall in British tourist numbers

Is the decades long British love affair with Spain starting to turn sour?

Tourism figures for November saw a sharp increase in the number of tourists, according to the latest data from the INE, making it the first month of growth since June.

4.7 million international tourists visited Spain in November, 2.8% more than at the same time in 2018.

The number of tourists from the UK, whilst still the largest individual group, fell by 6.4%.  France, the USA, Ireland and the Netherlands, however,  all reported double digit percentage growth.

Could this be Brexit fears beginning to bite?


"Rebellious luxury" planned for Sotogrande

"Just say SO". Sotogrande is about to undergo a revolution.

Accor's luxury, lifestyle brand SO/ Hotels & Resorts, together with Sotogrande SA, have signed a management agreement to open the first SO/ project in Spain.

SO/ Sotogrande Resort & Spa will reflect the brand's "rebellious luxury", blending exclusivity with the brand's commitment to dynamic gastronomy and upbeat vibrant well-being. The project will require an extensive renovation of the Almenara Hotel, SO/ Sotogrande and is scheduled to open in Spring 2021.

SO/ Sotogrande will bring a fascinating blend of social spaces, sophisticated experiences and distinctive "Just Say SO" services that celebrate Mediterranean culture. Overlooking Sotogrande, the new luxury hotel will feature 151 stylish rooms with 24 suites, setting new standards for luxury hospitality.

Redefining the traditional codes of hospitality through the lens of an unconventional savoir-faire, SO/ Sotogrande aims to become one of the most exclusive holiday and leisure destinations in southern Europe. Whether there to relax or work, guests will be spoiled for choice with five swimming pools, nine dining spaces, more than 2,000 square meters of spa and fitness facilities, and nearly 1,000 square meters of conference and meeting space, including an outdoor auditorium.

"SO/ is the most avant-garde brand in Accor's luxury portfolio, which combines vibrant local energy with creative gastronomic experiences and modern luxury service. The opening of SO/ Sotogrande Resort & Spa represents an excellent opportunity to introduce the brand in Spain and operate an emblematic property within our network, which is currently experiencing rapid growth," said Marc Dardenne, CEO, Luxury Brands, Europe, Accor.


Ambassador urges Brits to register as residents

"Happy New Year, and please make sure you are registered!"

That was the main message from British Ambassador Hugh Elliot to UK nationals who have yet to apply for residency.

The full message, which was released on Wednesday, reads;

"As you know, the UK will be leaving the EU on 31 January and we are on course to leave with a Deal, so I wanted to explain some of the jargon around the parliamentary process and, crucially, what all of this means for British nationals living in Spain.

Citizens’ rights have always been an important part of the negotiations on our exit from the EU. Indeed the citizens’ rights parts of the Withdrawal Agreement (the agreement about how we leave the EU) were one of the first areas to be agreed between the UK and the EU back in autumn 2018.

The final text of the Withdrawal Agreement was agreed between the UK and the EU in October 2019 and there were no substantive changes to the citizens’ rights elements.

In the UK, the process for approving the Withdrawal Agreement – or what many of us call ‘the Deal’ – is already well underway in parliament. The House of Commons approved the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – which is the domestic legislation that needs to be passed by parliament – by a majority of 99 on Thursday 9th January. It is now being discussed in the House of Lords.

If there are any amendments as a result of this, these will be considered by the House of Commons. The Bill will then be given “Royal Assent” which means that it becomes law in the UK (to follow this in depth, see the UK Parliament website https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-20/europeanunionwithdrawalagreement.html). In parallel, the European Parliament will also vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on 29 January; approval by a simple majority would mean that the EP has also ratified “the Deal”.

These processes are a bit intricate, but the key point for you is that we are firmly on track to leave with a Deal on 31 January. It is also important to note that your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement are completely independent of the negotiations about our future trade and security relationship with the EU.

For British Nationals in Spain, the Withdrawal Agreement contains really important guarantees for you on citizens’ rights, such as the right to continue to live and work in Spain, continuation of healthcare and uprating of pensions. Those rights will be protected for as long as you remain resident in Spain, provided that you are registered as a resident by 31 December, 2020. That’s why it is so important to ensure that you, your family, your friends and indeed your neighbours are all correctly registered as resident here. If you are not sure whether you are or don’t know what to do next, have a look at this video from our consular advisor which takes you through the process, and explains the differences between the padron, NIE and residencia: https://www.facebook.com/BritsInSpain/videos/2503168039961576/

You have time and there are plenty of appointments in most provinces, but do make it a New Year’s Resolution to get it done as soon as you can! I should also clarify that UK Nationals cannot apply for a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or foreigner’s identity card) until after Brexit – something I know some people have been asking about.

If there is any change to the residency system after Brexit we will update our Living in Guide at gov.uk/livinginspain, so do sign up for alerts and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/britsinspain.

We are also holding outreach events in a number of locations in January, including Benidorm, Lanzarote and Murcia, and further details of all our outreach events are on the Living in Guide and on Facebook, so do come along if you have any questions or doubts, and encourage others to join us too. If you can’t attend a face-to-face event, we will be doing another Facebook live session on 31 January where we can also answer your questions directly.

My very best wishes for 2020".


Who Dares Swims!

Mad Dogs and Englishmen may go out in the noonday sun, but even madder Marbella residents will be throwing themselves into the freezing Mediterranean at noon on the last Sunday in January!

He or She Who Dares Swims is a sponsored swim organised by local charity Collective Calling due to take place on San Pedro beach on January 26, all in support of helping to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate street children back in to loving family in Tanzania.

The event starts at 12 noon with  swimmers including the Iron men and women of Marbella braving the cold sea alongside the Estepona Police Force, swimwear designer Virginia Macari, philanthropists Martin and Veronika Tye, Marbella’s top models, fitness and sports stars and many more.

The charity swimmers will swim 100 metres out, although anyone can take part to help raise funds via sponsorship and swim whatever length is comfortable for them.

Once the swim has finished the fun continues for spectators and competers enjoying various stalls sponsored by Super Be Juicery, Celicioso, Pan & Mermelada and La Sala, offering savoury snacks and hot & cold drinks, including a vodka shot stall. Setting the scene with live music, DJ Fraser will be playing some tunes to get the party going.

The effervescent Nicole King from "Marbella Now TV" will be there filming the event as it unfolds, "Only the Few" productions will be recording and producing a video of the day and Helicopteros Sanitarios will be there also on standby.

This is destined to be an amazing day, so invite your friends and family to come down and join in the fun. Whether you are swimming or just helping to cheer on the swimmers it will be a fantastic day, helping to bring hope to street children in Kasulu, Tanzania.

Only a complete madman would do such a thing, which is why I'll be flinging myself into the water for a good cause. You'll probably be able to hear my anguished screams from Gib. If you fancy sponsoring me - send an email to giles@journalist.com 

http://collectivecalling.org/

Photo. Only The Few


Ronaldo becomes a Marbella player!

Yes. You read that correctly. Marbella FC welcomed Ronaldo to the team on Saturday.

Although he may own a couple of multi-million euro villas in Marbella, however, Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't made a shock move from Italian giants Juventus to play with the Spanish minows.

Brazil World Cup winner and member of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' Ronaldo Nazario was in town, however, to watch Real Valladolid take on Marbella FC in the second round of the Copa del Rey. The hosts couldn't resist the opportunity to make Ronaldo who, to be fair, has put on a few kilos since winning the World Cup in 2002, an honourary member.

In front of a packed stadium. Marbella FC almost pulled off a huge cup shock, leading the League One side 1-0 until the 86th minute and almost winning the game in extra time. It was not to be, however, with Real Valladolid winning 4-1 on penalties. Needless to say Ronaldo, who was watching from the stands with his family, seemed to be enjoying the Marbella hospitality!

Photo: Marbella FC


Sunday morning mutterings: New Year, same old story

This is somewhat of a Grinch spoiler alert, but I’m pleased the festive season is finally over.

Perhaps it is something to do with my British roots or, more likely, that I’m a cranky so-and-so, but Christmas and New Year celebrations in Spain seem to last forever.

As a freelance, it’s the time of year when Goodwill to All Men is stretched to the limit. From the start of December I play the annual festive game of ‘Will I get my outstanding invoices paid before Spain shuts down until mid-January?’.

This year I managed to get most of my ‘hard-earned’ cash in, which was handy as the fan belts on the Landcruiser decided to festively let go on the night of the Olive Press Christmas dinner. As a freebooting freelancer who has been known to work for complementary food, this was a double tragedy, I can assure you.

While the rest of Spain shut down until after Three Kings – and as an aside, I always assumed that an Epiphany was some sort of fruit based cocktail, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t come to the phone and the moment. I’m having an Epiphany’ – there were certain sections of the administration that continued to work tirelessly.

I am, of course, referring to the noble men and women of Hacienda and Social Security who, in a pincer movement of ruthless efficiency and deadly timing that would have made the Duke of Wellington proud, ransacked my bank account. On January 1. 2020 can only get better after that.

But I perhaps saw an omen of what 2020 has in store for the coast. Counting in the New Year ion my radio show, my drive home was punctuated by the sounds of fireworks.

At least I think they were fireworks. The way 2019 ended, it might have been the various criminal gangs, having the mother of all settling of scores...


Charity evening for Australia

 

The shocking images of devastation in Australia - especially those of injured wildlife - have appalled people worldwide.

Long term Marbella resident and animal lover Natalie Fantuzzi was so moved by the events unfolding that she decided to take action. Natalie contacted WIRES, a non profit organisation in Australia that desperately needs funds to treat the injured wildlife, and offered to help raise money.

The charity dinner event will take place on Tuesday, February 4 at Restaurant San Martino in Elviria with a fabulous three course menu for 50€ p/p plus drinks.

Some of the coast's best known singers - Mark Connor,Ron Howells, Frank Burke, Jai Northover and Nathan Dean -  will be performing and local businesses have have been overwhelming in their support with a great range of raffle prizes - including co-hosting my "Slice of Brown" Saturday morning Breakfast Show!

For reservations please contact Natalie Fantuzzi on 607975484

https://www.facebook.com/events/1327779407425901/


Club La Costa Tragedy - Widow claims "something wrong" with pool

Olubunmi Diya, the wife of the pastor who died along with two of their children in a swimming pool at Club La Costa World, has claimed that there was "something wrong" with the pool.

Gabriel Diya his 9-year-old daughter Comfort and Praise Emmanuel who was 16, were found unresponsive at Club La Costa on Christmas Eve.

In a statement - Olubunmi Diya says she believes there was something wrong with the pool.

Olubunmi clarified that the whole family went to the pool together and followed poolside instructions- but that the children were somehow dragged into the middle. She has also stated that the family all knew how to swim.

The resort has responded to her words by saying "Diligent and exhaustive police investigations into this tragedy have confirmed that the pool was working normally.

"There was no malfunction of any kind - and their thoughts are with the family."

Initial investigations suggested there was nothing wrong with the pool - and it reopened a couple of days later.

Post mortem tests have show that all three died by drowning, but exactly how still remains a mystery.


BREAKING NEWS. Spanish Air Traffic Shutdown Tonight!

Travellers have been warned that the Spanish Air Traffic Control service ENAIRE has said it is planning to suspend the use of airspace in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

This dramatic action anticipates the arrival of Father Christmas into Spanish airspace. AENA has also said it plans to ground all aircraft operations at the same time.

Policia Nacional have also enacted their súper asesor (Navidad) de transporte aerotransportado, or sa(N)ta Protocol, ensuring that lights that spell out Feliz Navidad are clear of obstructions, to allow for clear navigation across the country.

Between the hours of midnight and 2 am special provisions are being made to ensure that no aircraft are at risk of colliding with Santa himself

In press statement issued this morning from the North Pole, Father Christmas reminded us to tell you that he knows when you are awake, so won’t visit until you are fast asleep tonight.

I'll be getting coal as always, btw... Merry Christmas!!!


Storms sweep Spain

Eight people have died in Spain after a series of violent storms battered much of the south of Europe.

Storm Elsa brought strong gusts of wind up to 160 kilometres per hour, causing damage to roads, walls and trees. Persistent blackouts and flight diversions were also widespread.

The deaths in Spain include a South Korean woman killed by debris falling from a building in Madrid and a Dutch man who drowned windsurfing in rough weather off the Andalucian coast.

Winds of 170km/h were recorded in Galicia, forcing the cancellation of 14 flights as were crossings between Spain and Morocco. At one point more than 118,000 households were without electricity.