Spain seems to have staged a recovery after suffering a slump in tourist numbers.
Figures recently released by the tourism ministry show that in July, arrivals rose by 4.5 per cent – the third consecutive month of increase. Seven million visitors went to Spain or its islands.
Spain is consistently ranked among the world’s top three tourist destinations — both by arrivals and income earned — along with France and the U.S.
Britons have always been the largest group travelling there, but the recession and the weakness of the pound have seen more and more of them staying at home – the so-called ‘staycationers’.
But it seems another disappointing summer and the gradual strengthening of the pound have inspired the beginnings of a return to the sun-kissed beaches and cultural attractions offered by Spain. Aggressive cost-cutting by tour operators of up to 40 per cent has also helped to turn the tide.
by Andy Moreton
Whether soaking up the sun on the beach or the culture in the city, Luxique has an unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Spain.
Bullfighting has been banned by the parliament in one region of Spain.
Catalonia, an area in the north-east of the country with a strong separatist movement, has become the first part of the country’s mainland to outlaw the centuries-old tradition. It’s been banned in the Canary Islands for some years.
The ban, which will come into force in 2012, has been actively sought by animal rights activists, who want it extended across the whole country. Some have confronted matadors inside the ring or staged naked demonstrations.
Alessandro Zara, from the Spanish animal rights group Equanimal, said a worldwide ban would one day be a reality. “We will see it in our lifetime. One community after another will accept that bullfights are barbaric and have no place in a modern and ethical society,” he said.
However, some Spaniards see the vote as having more to do with Catalonia’s drive to reduce Madrid’s political influence than with the protection of animals.
The number of bullfights across Spain has dropped by a third in recent years, mainly because of the budget constraints of local governments, which often fund the spectacles. In Catalonia, there are now just over a dozen fights a year and the Monumental bullring in Barcelona is about the only place in the region that still stages them.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers a selection of luxury hotels in Barcelona and throughout Spain – city and seaside.
There’s been a big fall in the number of British people going abroad for their holidays.
Last year, there were ten million fewer trips – a drop of 15 per cent, the biggest annual reduction since the boom of cheap package holidays in the 1970s.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the deciding factor for many was the fall in the value of the pound against the euro and the dollar. Many opted to stay in Britain for what’s become known as a ‘staycation’.
Visitors to the most popular foreign destination, Spain, fell by 2.2 million to about 11.5 million last year. France was down 1.1 million visitors to 9.8 million, Italy down 760,000 to 2.6 million, and Portugal down 720,000 to 1.8 million.
Trips to the U.S. slumped by 20 per cent – 820,000 – to 3.2 million last year, while the most dramatic turnaround was the 41 per cent fall in visitors to Mexico after it was identified as the source of the global swine flu epidemic.
Trips to Spain have been falling steadily since 2006, and separate research predicts that Mediterranean resorts will no longer top the destination league table for Britons by the end of 2011. It’s thought they will be overtaken by those in the ‘Mett’ – Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.
by Andy Moreton
When these stats appeared in the national press, many people posted messages to say that there were bargains out there ready to be snapped up. Start with an affordable luxury hotel from Luxique!
A holiday resort in Spain has brought in measures to try to repair its image after becoming a haven for drunken British tourists.
Salou, on the Costa Dorada south of Barcelona, is threatening fines of up to £250 for people going around the streets in bikinis or with bare chests. Swimwear is being banned from all but beachfront bars and restaurants, and those caught drinking alcohol on the streets or having sex on the beach could be prosecuted.
More than 5,000 British students aged between 18 and 23 crowded into the town over Easter to attend the ‘Saloufest’, an annual party organised by university sports clubs. Locals complained about drunken behaviour.
“We want to ensure that Salou has a good image,” said the Mayor, Pere Granados, explaining the new measures. Alberto del Hierro, Councillor for Tourism in Salou, added: “One shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets or enter public buildings in unseemly apparel. It gives the city a low-class look.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent, Fiona Govan, says the bikini ban signals a growing unease in Spain against those sunburned northern European tourists who offend the local population by walking in the streets, dining in restaurants and even doing their shopping in little more than beachwear.
Earlier this year, I reported that the regional capital, Barcelona, had stopped short of introducing a similar ban but had embarked on a campaign urging tourists to dress appropriately when away from the beach.
by Andy Moreton
Whether soaking up the sun on the beach or the culture in the city, Luxique has an unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Barcelona and many other parts of Spain.
The Spanish city of Seville could be in danger of losing its Unesco World Heritage status if it goes ahead with the building of a 600ft tower.
The city has approved plans for the controversial tower designed by Cesar Pelli, the Argentine architect, despite objections from UN culture chiefs who fear the new construction will have a detrimental effect on the city’s historic centre.
The centre includes the Gothic cathedral containing the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and the Alcázar, the Moorish palace built in the 14th century.
That skyline is now threatened by the construction of the new headquarters for a savings bank, Cajasol, less than a mile away on the opposite bank of the Guadalquivir river.
Work began at the site early this year and is scheduled for completion by end of 2011 after planning chiefs ignored a request by Unesco to delay construction until a thorough impact report could be completed.
The city is likely to be put on the World Heritage site endangered list when the organisation’s committee meets in Brasilia next month and could be removed all together if the proposal for the tower is not modified.
As I reported last year, the German city of Dresden became the first to be taken off the list after constructing a bridge over the river Elbe that ruined its beautifully conserved landscape.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re thinking of visiting Spain’s centre of bullfighting, Flamenco music and oranges, Luxique can secure the best rates at any one of nine luxury hotels in Seville.
Italian police have acted to prevent large numbers of counterfeit goods reaching the streets and markets.
In a raid on eight warehouses east of Rome, they seized hundreds of items – said to be of ‘amazing quality’ – including clothes, shoes, leather goods and other accessories. It’s thought the items would have been given designer labels and sold around tourist attractions.
Italy’s national retailers’ association says that around 6.9 billion euros’ (£6 billion/$9.4 billion) worth of fake products are sold each year.
It’s not only brands such as Gucci, Bulgari and Armani that the Italians fight hard to protect – it’s foodstuffs as well.
And the pizza makers of Naples are celebrating after the European Union officially protected Neapolitan pizzas from imitations. They will now carry what’s called a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed label and become part of Europe’s food heritage.
It’s essential for a genuine Neapolitan pizza to include, among other things, only San Marzano tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese. The Italian farmers’ association says half of Italy’s 25,000 pizzerias currently use the wrong ingredients, such as East European cheese or Ukrainian flour.
Italy now tops the EU chart for products that are protected – it has 180, more than Spain or France.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re planning to visit Italy, take a look at Luxique’s comprehensive selection of luxury hotels in Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan and many other cities.
The UK government’s announcement that it intends to introduce body scanners at all major airports has stirred up something of a hornets’ nest.
The decision was taken in the light of the failed attempt to blow up a US plane on Christmas Day, but the government has been told the devices might breach an individual’s right to privacy under the Human Rights Act.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has written to the government expressing its concerns.
The scanners produce ‘naked’ images of passengers, and civil rights groups warn they could generate illegal pictures of children and celebrities that could be leaked online. In response to such fears, the Department of Transport said it was developing a staff code of practice for airport body scanners.
In its letter, the EHRC calls on the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to set out in detail the justification for bringing in body scanners, and clarify what safeguards will be put in place.
The Netherlands has also decided to install the scanners, but other countries such as Spain have sounded less enthusiastic.
by Andy Moreton
The government of the Canary Islands has raised an outcry by proposing to downgrade the protected status of hundreds of species of plants and animals.
The planned alterations would mean that large areas previously protected from urban development could now receive planning permission for new homes, golf courses and tourist facilities.
The Canary Islands, with their unique bio-diversity, have long been recognised as a haven for wildlife. They’re home to about 4,000 species and sub-species that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. These include birds, a snail, a grasshopper and a type of sea-grass.
Ecologists branded the plan by the regional authority in the Spanish Atlantic islands a ‘crime’ and called on the central government in Madrid to intervene. They claim the proposal aims to remove obstacles that have impeded the development of tourist resorts across the islands.
The opponents have threatened to take their case to the European Parliament, claiming the new bill is in violation of European Laws on the protection of endangered species.
by Andy Moreton, with Fiona Govan in Madrid
Luxique offers great rates at six top-class hotels in the Canary Islands – all with different styles, but luxurious facilities.
It began innocently enough … a passenger dropped her mobile phone as her holiday jet came in to land at Murcia in Spain.
But the consequence was a delay of three hours for holidaymakers who were scheduled to fly on that aircraft back to Newcastle in north-east England.
The problem was that the woman accidentally kicked the phone as it fell to the floor and it slid out of sight into an air vent. Because it had been switched on, Jet2 airline bosses refused to allow the plane to take off until it had been located.
That was the cue for the cockpit area and three rows of seats of the plane to be dismantled while passengers waiting to board sat in the departure lounge. The phone was eventually retrieved.
A spokesman for Jet2 thanked the passengers for their patience. He said:
“Any mobile or similar communications device that is switched on would need to be removed from the aircraft in order to ensure maximum safety for our passengers. We would like to remind all those travelling by air not to switch their phones on until they reach the airport terminal.”
When this story was run by the Daily Mail in the UK, there were no fewer than 114 comments. Said ‘Christine’:
“Is the same care given to a lost piece of luggage?”
by Andy Moreton
The beautiful and vibrant Spanish city of Barcelona has just earned a less welcome tag – the pickpocket capital of the world.
In a survey carried out by a major the holiday review site, the Catalan capital was even ranked ahead of Rome, where the problem has been deep-rooted and much-publicised. Prague was third.
The travel review site based its rankings mainly on comments made by its website users. Particularly notorious was Barcelona’s famous boulevard, La Rambla, which has also recently become a magnet for street prostitutes. One tourist commented: “The place is rife with pickpockets …. I know of three people who were victims in the four days we were there!”
A spokesperson for the travel review site said: “The combination of an awe-struck traveller and a bag bulging with local currency, not to mention passports, cameras and credit cards, is an appealing prospect for any light-fingered thief.”
Don’t be put off from going to this delightful city, but read the useful safety tips on the Barcelona Tourist Guide website: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/general/barcelona-safety.html. And for accommodation, you can do no better than browse Luxique’s comprehensive selection of luxury hotels in Barcelona.
by Andy Moreton