Despite announcing their intention to break with tradition and not attend any official engagements, members of the Spanish Royal Household made surprise visits to Mallorca this Easter. On Monday 12 April, former Olympic sailor King Felipe VI dropped in unannounced to Club Nàutic in s’Arenal. He happily spent time chatting and posing for photos with sailors and technicians from the Cantabrian Sailing Federation as they prepared for last week’s Spanish 420 National Cup. So discreet was the King’s visit that it took days to filter through the social networks. He also found time to meet with his mother, Queen Sofía, who was spotted at Palma’s Holy Thursday procession.
On Monday, we learned that plans for Palma’s greener healthier future had already been drawn up – all that remained was an official rubber stamp. After years of consultation, schemes from the General Urban Planning Plan (PGOU), Climate and Sustainable Energy Action Plan (PACES) and the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (PMUS) are in the final stages of processing and will affect the entire City Council. The big picture includes multiplying social housing by a factor of eight, making 980 hectares of Palma’s streets pedestrian- and bike-friendly, reducing CO2 emissions by 40%, cutting energy consumption by 32.5% and the creation of a Low Emission Zone. Watch this space.
Official data for 2021 revealed that the number of foreign residents in Spain smashed the six-million mark for the very first time. As of 31 December 2021, a total of 6,007,553 foreigners called Spain home, according to the country’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Services and Migration. Among them were an extra 115,694 Brits who secured a residence permit or new TIE card - rising from 65,891 in 2020 to 181,585 in 2021. The average age of foreigners residing in Spain is 40, with slightly more men (52%) than women. The Romanian community is the largest at 1,093,231, followed by Moroccans (829,992), British (407,628), Italians (377,143) and Chinese (231,019). The Balearics is the region with the highest percentage of foreign residents (18.8% of the total) – 17,953 of them are from the United Kingdom.
Stub it Out
On Tuesday we found out that the terrace smoking ban that came into force in August 2020 was unlikely to be lifted – pandemic or no pandemic. The General Director of Public Health in the Balearics, Maria Antònia Font, said the stipulation would be extended pending reform of the Anti-Tobacco Law planned for before the end of 2023. She said: “We are under pressure to eliminate the measure but for now we want to keep it… it is better to keep it waiting for the new regulations than to remove it.” 22% of over 15s smoke in Spain and, according to the Spanish Association Against Cancer, tobacco is responsible for 30% of cancer deaths.
Demise of Cheap Booze
Meanwhile, there were similar bad tidings for drinkers of alcohol. The EU has not updated its minimum excise duty rates for alcohol products since 1992. Current rules “have not kept pace with inflation, the evolution of the market, consumption patterns or growing public health concerns”, explained the European Commission. The Commission will now evaluate the situation and report back to the Council. As Spain currently has one of the lowest alcohol tax rates in Europe, it would almost certainly feel the effects of any changes. There have long been calls for a rise in alcohol tax in Spain after complaints of too many people getting too drunk too regularly – not least a subset of tourists who flock to the country for its cheap booze.
Mallorca is full of happy hoteliers having enjoyed occupancy levels of between 85 and 88% this Easter. To add to their glee, there were neither problems at the airport nor in the resorts. Hoteliers now face a small post-Easter drop off, before the summer season gains proper momentum. Hotels which opened for Easter are likely to stay open, even if occupancy falls, in a bid to maintain and create employment.
A long 700 days after first made mandatory, indoor mask-wearing officially came to an end on Wednesday. People were no longer obliged to wear masks in covered spaces such as bars, cafés, shopping centres, supermarkets, schools, cinemas and theatres. Instead, citizens are to personally evaluate whether to wear one according to their level of vulnerability to the virus, the spaces they frequent and the precautions they wish to take. There are exceptions however, with face coverings still mandatory in public transport, health centres, care homes and pharmacies. Unsurprisingly, there remains some confusion. Although masks are no longer compulsory in the workplace, the Government is letting employers decide to keep them if they deem there to be a health risk. Italy and Portugal are the only two EU member states to still demand indoor mask wearing.
Guilty, but not Fazed
On Thursday, we discovered that the Ukrainian yacht engineer who attempted to sink his Russian boss’s superyacht in Port Adriano had been found guilty of causing minor criminal damage. We also gathered that he wasn’t at all fussed about the charge. 55-year-old Taras Ostapchuk was arrested at the end of February for deliberately opening valves in the engine room and crew cabins of Lady Anastasia. He was held for 36 hours and, immediately after his release, returned to Ukraine where he enlisted in the army. Taras told the Bulletin: “I am fine, my main priority is defending Kyiv, protecting Ukraine and defeating the Russians. Life in Kyiv is gradually getting back to normal. I no longer care what happens in Mallorca, my work there is finished.”
Boat Show Countdown
Time is ticking until the start of Palma International Boat Show on Thursday. Around 150 people are currently employed in its assembly, from electricians to carpenters, and divers to plumbers. All infrastructure must be set up from scratch, among other things 200 metres of floating line for mooring yachts and the 72-metre floating gangway that allows visitors to wander around the show in a circular route. Tickets available at: www.palmainternationalboatshow.com.
Happy Birthday Her Majesty
And finally, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 96th birthday on Thursday. To mark the occasion, she travelled by helicopter to her country retreat in Sandringham, Norfolk, where she was joined by family and friends. The official portrait featured the Queen posing between two white ponies, reflecting her lifelong love of horses. In honour of her birthday and Platinum Jubilee year, Barbie released a limited-edition doll made in her likeness. Bet she was thrilled. If you’re so inclined, you can pick one up at Harrods, Hamley’s, Selfridges, John Lewis and Amazon.