PHOTOS: J. TORRES
THE British Ambassador to Spain, Giles Paxman, said yesterday that Britons are far more European than they realise but at the same time stressed the need for the new British tourist to be better prepared and informed before they travel overseas.
Giles Paxman is on the eve of completing his first year as Her Majesty's Ambassador to Spain and yesterday explained that the Spanish consular corps is not only the largest consular network in the world but very much a pioneering one.
The Ambassador explained that because of the sheer volume of British residents and tourists, an estimated 13.5 million last year, the British consular corps in Spain has to deal with many problems not experienced by consulates and embassies in other parts of the world.
Just as the British Consul to the Balearics, Paul Abrey, explained to the Bulletin earlier this year, the Ambassador stressed that they are having to change their approach and operational methods in order to deal with the modern problems being suffered by British residents and holiday makers.
There are an estimated one million registered Britons living in Spain, about 50'000 of those in the Balearics and obviously, the Embassy and consulates neither have the remits nor resources to help in every case.
The first new challenge has been thrown up by the boom in independent holidays. More and more people are booking and organising their trips on line. Twenty years ago, British holiday makers would come to Spain on a traditional package holiday and therefore have all the protection of the tour operator in the event of a problem. Now, however, they are coming independently and are obviously far more vulnerable. Some come without the proper insurance or medical cards, others with a lack of funds to bail them out of a problem and they don't have the tour operator to turn to, so they come to us. On the one hand, the number of British tourists coming to Spain has fallen, but our work load has increased and that's due to visitors not being fully prepared before they embark on their holiday. That is one of the reasons we have the Know Before You Go website.