News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week January 29th to February 4th 2004.
PASSENGERS WIN AIRFARE WAR
Airlines’ battle against low-cost start-ups leads to cheaper tickets
By Oliver McIntyre
MAJOR AIRLINES HAVE LAUNCHED AN AIRFARE WAR AGAINST THE LOW-COST AIRLINES, RESULTING IN EXTREMELY CHEAP TICKETS FOR PASSENGERS LOOKING TO FLY FROM MÁLAGA TO THE UK.
Low-cost airlines, such as easyJet and Ryanair, experienced a 45 per cent growth in the Spanish market in 2003, prompting the larger and longer established airlines to make a strong bid to win back business.
Air Europa fired the first shot, slashing its ticket prices by 50 per cent in early January. Iberia and Spanair soon entered the fray, applying similar across-the-board cuts, only last week making tickets available for just seven or eight euros apiece. Indeed, the offers were so enticing to bargain-hunting passengers that the airlines’ Web pages became overloaded.
According to the airlines, the price war has resulted in record-breaking ticket sales during what is generally one of the slowest seasons of the year for air travel. Spanair, for example, has sold 100,000 seats, 70,000 of them at special-promotion prices.
That the low-cost airlines have taken a big bite in market share at Málaga airport is evidenced by the 2003 yearend numbers: easyJet, with 1.2 million passengers flying into or out of Málaga, was behind only Iberia (nearly 1.4 million passengers). That represents a 16 per cent increase over easyJet’s 2002 figures, and the company now owns a 36 per cent market share on the Málaga-London route.
BUSY TIMES FOR MÁLAGA AIRPORT
Analysts say that the growth of the low-cost airlines has played a strong role in the relatively sharp increase in passenger traffic at Málaga Airport, which rose 11 per cent from 2002 to 2003, double the increase seen at other major Spanish airports as Madrid’s Barajas or Barcelona’s Prat.
The trend is set to continue, with the entry of additional low-cost operators into the Málaga market, such as Thompsonfly’s Málaga-Coventry flights beginning in April and FlyGlobespan’s Edinburgh-Málaga connection.
COSTA TO BENEFIT FROM LANGUAGE-TOURISM ACCORD
By Oliver McIntyre
TURESPAÑA, THE TOURISM-PROMOTION AGENCY OF SPAIN’S TOURISM MINISTRY, LAST WEEK SIGNED A THREE-YEAR CO-OPERATION AGREEMENT WITH THE CERVANTES INSTITUTE AND THE FEDERATION OF SPANISH-FOR-FOREIGNERS SCHOOLS (FEDELE), WITH THE GOAL OF PROMOTING LANGUAGE TOURISM TO THE COUNTRY.
The Costa del Sol region is expected to benefit greatly from the promotional effort, with the province of Málaga currently second behind only Salamanca in attracting foreigners to come and study Spanish.
The promotion strategy will include print advertisements (within Turespaña’s ‘Spain Marks’ campaign) highlighting language tourism and circulated in target countries like the UK, France, Germany and the United States. Plans also call for printing 60,000 copies, in a variety of languages, of a 70-page catalogue compiling a wide array of destinations, schools and course offerings. The catalogues are to be distributed at universities, airline offices, travel agencies and other locations. The agreement also includes plans for market studies and student surveys to assess expectations and level of satisfaction.
150,000 VISITORS PER YEAR
According to Fedele’s president, Francisco Pérez, the language-tourism market in Spain annually attracts 150,000 visitors, whom he says tend to stay in the country an average of four weeks (compared to four days for regular tourists), during which time they are converted into ‘the greatest ambassadors for Spanish culture’. In addition, they tend to be people with relatively high expendable incomes, he says.
There are currently 45 Spanish-for-foreigners schools in Spain accredited by the Cervantes Institute, and 35 more in the accreditation process. Málaga receives about 20 per cent of all foreigners who come to the country to study Spanish.
RINGLEADER IN BRITISH TIMESHARE FRAUD ARRESTED
By David Eade
Officers of the Fraud Squad belonging to the Specialised and Violent Crime Unit of the National Police have arrested a South African citizen who stands accused of cheating thousands of Britons in a timeshare scam.
The man identified only as 56-year-old Willem M P is alleged to have run the fraudulent operation for a number of years principally from the Edificio Terminal in Fuengirola and nearby locations.
Investigations started in October 2001 after documentation was found in some offices in Fuengirola linking the arrested man to the recruitment of personnel for suspected timeshare fraud companies.
The modus operandi was to approach British owners of timeshare properties on the Costa del Sol with an offer to resell them at a very good price. The owners were asked to make an initial payment of 1,200 euros to the resale company but once the money was paid the timeshare owners never heard from them again.
Company change of name
The scam would be repeated on an on-going basis as the fraudsters kept changing the companies’ names. According to the National Police the businesses operated as Arana Beach Marbella, Fortuna Properties and Trend Properties.
The police estimate that tens of thousands of people in Europe have been the victims of this type of fraud. Their investigations have shown the scam was designed, organised and carried out by groups of British criminals resident on the Costa del Sol. Any readers who have been conned by these groups should report their case to the National Police Comisaría in Málaga.
REGIONAL GOVERNMENT WARNS AGAINST MOORAGE AUCTION
By Oliver McIntyre
Following protests by a group of moorage renters at the Benalmádena marina (CDSN, Jan. 22 – 28), the Junta de Andalucía’s Port Authority last week urged the Town Hall to pull the plug on its plan to auction off 200 moorage spaces at the marina.
The Coastal Authority’s written request, a copy of which was sent to the legal representative of the boat owners who currently rent the moorage spaces that are to put up for sale, indicates that the auction plan ‘does not conform entirely with the Andalucía Ports Law’. It goes on to state that ‘the rental contract for the moorage space can only be broken by the renter’.
However, the renters’ representative, Augusto Taillefer, recognises that the Junta does not have legal authority to prohibit the auction plan, and that it ultimately is a matter to be settled between the marina management and the boat owners.
When the period for bidding to purchase one of the 200 moorage spaces expired last week, the marina had only received 40 offers, not counting mail-in offers that may not yet have arrived. The town councillor responsible for the marina, José Nieto, has indicated that current renters will be given the opportunity to purchase their moorage without having to enter the auction, and as the dialogue between the Town Hall and the renters’ association continues, changes to the plan are still a possibility.
BRITISH & SPANISH POLICEMEN STABBED IN FUENGIROLA
NEWS Staff Reporter
Two police officers, one British and one Spanish, were stabbed while walking out of a restaurant on Fuengirola's Paseo Marítimo on Monday night. According to police reports, the two officers were leaving the restaurant, where they had dined together, when they were attacked from behind and stabbed in the back by two men who appeared to be of North African origin. The British officer suffered serious wounds, while the Spanish policeman was treated for minor injuries. A third officer, also British, was uninjured in the attack.
The assault occurred at around 21.30 in the Plaza San Rafael. Witnesses said the attackers stabbed the officers without uttering a word, then ran off after a brief struggle. A Guardia Civil agent who was inside the restaurant ran out and chased the two men, but was unable to catch them. Police say they have no known motive for the crime. At the time CDSN went to press, the attackers were still at large.
AGREEMENT ENDS QUARRY-WORKERS STRIKE
Thirteen-day strike halted hundreds of Costa construction projects
By Oliver McIntyre
AFTER TWO MARATHON MEETINGS, EACH LASTING OVER FIVE HOURS, THE VARIOUS PARTIES INVOLVED IN THE DISPUTE OVER THE ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE QUARRYING OPERATIONS REACHED AN AGREEMENT MONDAY, ENDING THE STRIKE THAT HAD HALTED EXTRACTION WORK AT THE QUARRIES SINCE JANUARY 14 AND HAD AFFECTED SOME 700 CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS FOR LACK OF MATERIALS.
Representatives from the Junta de Andalucía, Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall, the trade unions, the quarrying companies and the construction industry were all present at the meeting and unanimously sign-off on the agreement. According to the Town Hall, the accord guarantees the workers' job security and addresses environmental and regulatory issues surrounding the quarrying operations.
The quarry workers, fearing for their employment security, went on strike to demand that the various administrations and agencies involved in regulating the industry come to an agreement that would 'regularise' the situation of the long-controversial quarrying operations in Alhaurín. The quarries have been the subject of numerous legal battles and protests by some Alhaurín residents and organisations, in particular the Platform in Defence of Alhaurín's Mountains and Health (PDSS).
Among the points agreed upon in Monday's accord is the closure of one of the two Alhaurín quarry sites, known as Arroyo Blanquillo, with the companies that were working there agreeing to move their operations to a 38-hectare zone within the other existing quarry site, Arroyo Pinar. Also, it was confirmed that a proposed new quarry site (Jarapalos 6048) will not be opened, with the denial of both Junta and Town Hall permits and licensing.
The agreement also outlines measures for restoration work at the Arroyo Blanquillo quarry site, to be carried out by the companies that have been working there, and the subsequent handing over of the site to the Town Hall for public use. In addition, it calls for a study on ways to improve trucking routes from the quarry, the creation of improved dust management and other environmental controls, and the creation of a Technical Monitoring Commission to guarantee that all the measures of the agreement are carried out in full.
POLITICAL PRESSURE OVER VELEZ' TRANVIA
By Dave Jamieson
The political flak continues to fly in Vélez-Málaga, with the opposition Partido Popular criticising the Town Hall's stance on the new tranvía light-transport link. PP councillors say that the town should compensate the bus company Alsina Graells, which presently operates the interurban service between Vélez and Torre del Mar. They say that an economic study carried out by the Junta de Andalucía last October shows that when the tranvía begins running in the middle of next year, Alsina will lose business and should therefore be paid 2.5 million euros in compensation.
The town's ruling Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) council rejected the suggestion, however, saying that any losses incurred by the bus company on the Vélez-to-Torre route should be made up by new urban services, and not by the Town Hall.
The PP councillors have also criticised Vélez's mayor, Antonio Souviron, who they say is failing fully to integrate the municipality. They claim that while Torre del Mar will benefit from the new tranvía, other communities, including Lagos, Mezquitilla, Triana, Trapiche, Cajiz and Chilches, have been relegated to a "second division."
LINE 3 OF THE METRO WILL BE UNDERGROUND
Taxi drivers foresee major losses when Málaga system begins
By Dave Jamieson and Oliver McIntyre
THE THIRD LINE OF MÁLAGA’S NEW METRO SYSTEM WILL BE TOTALLY UNDERGROUND. THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA HAS NOW LICENSED THE BASIC PROJECT FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE FIRST LEG OF THE NEW TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM TO COVER THE EAST OF THE CITY, RUNNING 6.9 KILOMETRES FROM GUADALMEDINA TO EL PALO, AT AN ESTIMATED COST OF 178 MILLION EUROS.
Six of the stations will be exclusive to the third line, while interchanges with Lines 1 and 2 will be possible at Malagueta, Plaza de la Marina and Guadalmedina. 92,000 people will be served by the new line with 3.7 million journeys per year anticipated. The journey time from terminus to terminus is expected to be about 11 minutes.
Importantly, there are plans to integrate the line with the proposed new railway service for the eastern Costa del Sol, which would see trains running between Málaga and Nerja.
The Junta has also announced that an investigation will begin in the summer into the effects of underground construction work on 800 buildings within 50 metres of the planned routes of Lines 1 and 2 of the metro.
WORRIED TAXI DRIVERS
Meanwhile, taxi drivers in Málaga are already bracing themselves for a drop in business when the metro opens in 2007. Ángel de Mula, president of AUMAT, their trade association, says that an excessive number of cabs already on the streets has seen drivers’ revenues drop by around nine per cent, and foresees an ‘alarming decline’ in their income when the metro goes into service. Taxi operators place the blame mainly on Málaga Town Hall which issued 63 new licences last year and expects to issue a further 70 this year. At present, the average driver takes 100 euros a day in fares, but has to work up to 14 hours to achieve it, a duration not recommended for those who are driving.
Mijas requests third stop on coastal railway
Mijas Town Hall last week submitted to the Junta de Andalucía a request that the proposed route of the planned Estepona-to-Nerja railway be slightly changed to accommodate a third stop in the municipality, at Las Lagunas. The original proposal already includes two other stops in the town, at La Cala and Calahonda.
The Mijas request came as the first suggested change during the project’s public comment period, which lasts until February 26. The regional government’s ambitious 2.3-billion-euro coastal railway plan calls for 53 kilometres of track, 80 per cent of it underground, and a travel time between Nerja and Estepona of roughly an hour and a half. The Junta has indicated that it is committed to putting the first stages of construction to tender by 2005, and expects that by 2010 the new line will carry 30 million passengers a year.
900.000 ANDALUCES LIVE IN ABJECT POVERTY
By David Eade
AWAY FROM THE APPARENT WEALTH OF THE COSTA DEL SOL A TOTAL OF 900,000 PEOPLE IN ANDALUCÍA SURVIVE ON AN INCOME OF LESS THAN HALF THE AVERAGE FOR THE REGION.
These are the findings produced by a study by the Andalucía Institute of Social Studies (IESA) that has set the average annual income for the region at 9,700 euros. However, 12.4 per cent of the population receive less than 4,850 euros each year.
The IESA report has established three types of poverty. The least severe being those who receive less than 4,850 euros. The more serious cases form 35 per cent of the total and receive 3,395 or less euros per year whilst the most severely affected group, 25 per cent of the total, have an annual income of less than 2,425 euros. In the case of the severest affected group IESA says it involves 130,000 people and 36,000 households.
CADIZ, REGION’S POOREST PROVINCE
The province of Cádiz has the highest percent of poor people in Andalucía with 16.3 per cent living in poverty. Next is Sevilla with 15.1 percent followed by Jaén (13.1), Granada (12.8), Córdoba (12.1), Huelva (11), Almería (8.8) and finally Málaga on 8.1 per cent.
The one glimmer of hope for the impoverished people of the region is that the numbers of people living on very low incomes in slowly dropping. In a similar survey in 1991 the total number of Andaluces earning less than half the regional average was 14.8 per cent compared with 12.4 per cent in the latest study.
AFTERMATH OF NERJA OIL POLLUTION
Ecologists call for lower speed limits through park
By Dave Jamieson
Work has been continuing to clean up the oil spillage in the natural park of Maro – Cerro Gordo. On Monday of last week, a 28-year-old driver died after his lorry left the N340 coast road on the border of Málaga and Granada provinces. It fell 75 metres, completely destroying the vehicle and releasing 20,000 litres of used lubrication oil, considered to be toxic and dangerous. The accident near El Cañuelo beach was the second and more serious such incident in the area within a week. The first involved an overturned tanker carrying 32,000 litres of agricultural oil, but in that case, only 9,000 litres escaped and was contained. Neither incident threatened beach areas, but the second led to a major clean-up operation in the park with experts called in to clear the mix of oil used in boat engines mixed with hydrocarbons and sea water. It has been a painstaking operation, carried out mainly by hand, across the 800 square metres affected, but the provincial environment agency in Málaga said that the ecosystem of the park would not suffer long-term damage.
The Town Hall at Nerja, in whose municipality the accident happened, offered any help necessary, and expressed its concern for the death of the lorry driver. The recent accidents have prompted the ecology association GENA to call for reduced speed limits for traffic on the N340 through the park. They say that the fact that no major damage will result from the spillages does not detract from their seriousness, and suggests that speed humps could be employed to force vehicles to travel more slowly.
THE FUTURE OF THE LYNX DEPENDS ON 'GARFIO'
News Staff Reporter
The Ministry of the Environment and the regional government’s environment department have announced that the first male Iberian Lynx is now being held at the Doñana National Park breeding centre.
His name is ‘Garfio’ and he is currently being held in the isolation unit at the park’s ‘El Acebuche’ centre. He will be kept there until the experts deem it is safe for him to be released amongst the captive females.
The announcement of ‘Garfio’s’ arrival was made during the visit to Doñana’s Iberian Lynx breeding centre by the Minister for the Environment, Elvira Rodríguez, her regional government counterpart, Fuensanta Coves, who were both accompanied by the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Margot Wallström.
The male lynx was captured on December 10 in the Sierra de Andújar and weighs 15 kilos. After his capture he was transferred to the regional government’s centre at Los Villares in Córdoba where he underwent three weeks of tests in sanitary conditions.
The first reports stated that ‘Garfio’ is in good health so he was transferred to ‘El Acebuche’ to continue his quarantine period and undergo further tests. If all goes to plan he will soon be introduced to the breeding centre’s female residents who go by the names of ‘Aura’, ‘Sally’, ‘Esperanza’ and ‘Morena’.