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Live News From Spain As It Happens

Keep up to date with all the latest news from Spain as it happens. The blog will be updated constantly throughout the day bringing you all the latest stories as they break.

Holiday plans for 2024: Up to €1,500, staycations or Europe, and DIY bookings most popular
Friday, April 12, 2024

The average Spanish resident will spend between €500 and €1,500 on their holidays this year, with three in 10 set to increase their budget from last year and 16% reducing it.

A survey by travel operator Aplázame, targeting customers aged between 18 and 65, found that a total of 55% expect to spend the same amount on their 2024 getaways as they did in 2023, that nearly four in 10 plan to take two trips this year, and three in 10 intend to take three or more trips.

Two-thirds will take their holidays in summer, which continues to be the most popular season for national or international travel.

The emphasis is more on national travel, since staycations in Spain are the highest on holidaymakers' wishlists for 2024, even if just for short breaks.

Another 44% intend to travel to another European country, specifically on the Mediterranean, whilst 20% are looking to go long-haul and visit somewhere on another continent.

When it comes to destination decisions, over three-quarters say price is the deciding factor, with four in 10 influenced by discounts or special offers, and just over a third having a set budget and intending to stick to it.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Express rail fares slashed by 40% through increase in competition
Friday, April 12, 2024

HIGH-SPEED rail services between Spain's largest two cities and France have been snapped up by half a million passengers in less than nine months, reveals the transport board.

RENFE launched new routes on its already-popular express AVE line in summer 2023, connecting Barcelona with Lyon and Madrid with Marseille.

AVE express trains (pictured) were once the only high-speed option in Spain; now they are one of four options (photo by rail board RENFE)

Both of these use the same rail link as the existing AVE service between Barcelona and Nîmes.

From all three French destinations, frequent connections run to Paris, meaning it is relatively quick and easy to get to Spain's main metropolitan areas from almost anywhere in France.

Since the new cross-border routes opened, trains have been on average 80% full, RENFE reports.

They run daily in either direction, and the rail board has 'adopted a dynamic price-setting system', it says, meaning tariffs can be easily changed to keep them competitive.

RENFE intends to increase its trans-Pyrénéen lines and become a 'key rail operator' in France, with its next step being to 'multiply its offer fourfold' by putting new trains with greater capacity in service.

Eventually, although sooner rather than later, RENFE plans to link directly to Paris from Spain, and to expand its network of destinations in France from Spain, and within France.

Until three years ago, RENFE was the sole rail operator in Spain, but once the train travel market was opened up to competition, RENFE has had to work harder to make its prices and service quality more attractive.

One of its moves in this direction was the launch of the low-cost version of the AVE, known as the AVLO – just as speedy, but with no frills, reduced luggage allowance, and 'extras' such as reserved seating and on-board WiFi coming at an additional, optional cost.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Spain's post office launches nationwide luggage locker service
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

SPAIN'S State post office has launched a new solution for passing travellers who do not want to lug their suitcases around: Lockers for bags are now provided, with prices depending upon weight.

Ideal for people on connecting flights with a long overlay who want to explore the city and get out of the airport, or for those on a shopping spree who want to go hands-free when dining or visiting key sites, the new service provided by Correos is available for anything from a couple of hours to 15 days.

Correos only specifies that bags and cases must be closed or zipped up to avoid potential disputes if anything goes missing, and that expensive jewellery, large amounts of cash, or other valuables cannot be left there.

Once the owner wants to retrieve their bags, they can do so at any time, even if the period they have signed up for has not yet expired.

A simple form is completed, usually online.

Anyone undertaking the internationally-popular pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago will find a network of luggage deposits along any of the routes, Correos reveals, and they can either pre-book them online or simply turn up and fill in a handwritten form.

For the Santiago de Compostela pilgrim routes, luggage deposits even include facilities for bicycles.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com



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Housing market shows recovery in January after 12 months of decline
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

AN ONGOING slowdown in home sales in Spain showed signs of recovery in January – the last full month for which figures are available.

The National Statistics Institute (INE) revealed that the year-on-year decrease for the first month of 2024 was just 2.1%, marking an upturn since the closing months of 2023.

Figures for October showed a 11.1% annual reduction, followed by 8.7% in November, meaning numbers for January 2024 point at an increase in sales after a difficult final quarter.

To date, sales and purchases of residential property in Spain have shown year-on-year declines each month for the past 12 months, but market prices do not appear to have been affected by this trend.

Home values are continuing to rise, albeit gradually, but mortgage finance issues appear to be directly responsible for fewer purchases.

Banks are applying tougher conditions for granting new loans, and the unprecedently-sharp rise in Eurozone interest rates since late 2022 mean mortgages are far more expensive.

As Spanish variable-rate mortgages are typically reviewed annually and adjusted to the current Eurozone interest rates, known as the Euribor, this means the full impact of the hikes was not seen by every homeowner in Spain with a loan until the closing months of 2023.

 

Still in decline, but second-highest sales volume since recession

INE details show that a total of 54,346 homes were sold in Spain in January 2024 – a time which is traditionally an off-peak sales month in any case, with purchases tending to spike just before and during summer – compared with 55,496 residential property sales in January 2023.

But this shrinkage is in no way close to that seen at the beginning of the recession when home values and purchases tanked – in fact, INE data reveal that January 2024 accounted for the second-highest number of sales since the same month in 2009.

Last January saw the best results since that bleak time now 15 years ago – at the start of 2023, residential property purchases went up 4.9% year on year, despite the preceding few months showing early signs of a slowdown.

By February 2023, home sales were down 6.6% based on the same month the previous year – a drop which swelled to 15.6% by December, when only 36,698 properties were sold.

This means that, despite property market growth still being some way off, the increase in sales from month to month between December 2023 and January 2024 was an impressive 48.1%.

That said, a gulf normally exists between year-end and year-opening home sale figures, given that transactions started in the run-up to the festive season are often not closed until January, due to the inevitable reduction in all non-Christmas-related business activity during that time of year.

 

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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New childcare support law for Spain: An overview
Saturday, March 23, 2024

GREATER practical and financial help for parents is on the cards now that a new 'family law' has passed its second reading in the Council of Ministers, with extended maternity and paternity pay, protected time off for childcare, tax rebates, and a revised definition of households eligible for extra support.

Originally set up by equality minister Ione Belarra in 2023, the legislation is among many others that had to be shelved due to the general elections in July, but looks set to come into force later this year.

Minister for social rights Pablo Bustinduy hopes to bring the new framework into effect as soon as possible, with additional features still under debate expected to be added on in due course.

These features likely to be included at a later date cover maternity and paternity leave being extended from their current 16 weeks to 20 weeks, and for at least four weeks of the present eight a parent can take off work for childcare to be fully paid.

 

More flexible and modern definition of 'families'

In line with European Union requirements, Spain's new 'family law' redefines the concept of the parent-child unit to ensure greater social and legal protection for those that do not follow the traditional notion of a married heterosexual couple with biological children in common.

The text extends to adoption, stepchildren, guardianship, fostering, children or their primary carers with registered disabilities, same-sex parents, and unmarried cohabiting parents.

Read more at thinkSPAIN:com

 



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Customer service law approved: Changes for the better explained
Friday, March 15, 2024

A GROUND-BREAKING new customer service law has finally been approved by Spain's Council of Ministers after being shelved for nearly two years.

The right to speak to a human rather than a machine, a limit of three minutes for being kept on hold on the telephone, and a requirement for complaints to be resolved within two weeks are included in the new Law of Customer Assistance Services, which the government began working on in November 2021.

 

Reason for two-year hold-up

Details were released early the following year, but progress on the legislation reform ground to a halt with socialist president Pedro Sánchez's decision to hold a snap general election in July 2023 in the hope of reinforcing the left-wing leader's mandate following a landslide dive to the right in the earlier regional and local council elections.

Pedro Sánchez being sworn in as president in November 2023 (photo: EFE)

Sánchez's gamble paid off, and the socialists (PSOE) will continue in national government until at least mid-2027, along with their left-wing coalition partners Sumar, a regroup of the earlier independent party Unidas Podemos.

It was Unidas Podemos' Alberto Garzón – formerly of United Left – who spearheaded the changes in customer service legislation when he was minister for consumer affairs, and his draft law earned a near-unanimous 'yes' in its first Parliamentary scrutiny: A total of 289 in favour and 54 abstentions, but no votes against.

 

Coming into effect 'imminently'

Despite the long delay, the final signing-off process and bringing into effect of Garzón's legislation is expected to be straightforward, especially as the new minister for social rights, consumer affairs and Agenda 2030, Pablo Bustinduy, has given the text the nod without requesting any amendments.

Doing so was a strategy to ensure the law would come into force as quickly as possible, with any issues or necessary improvements left for later debate and voting, since Bustinduy considered it imperative to 'end, or at least reduce' the 'general levels of dissatisfaction' among consumers with the service they receive.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Extra-terrestrial treasure: Prehistoric links to outer space found in Alicante province
Wednesday, March 6, 2024

OUTER space and the Bronze Age do not sit well in the same sentence – they may both have existed at the same time, but anyone based on Earth back then would not have known much, or anything, about what lies beyond.

These pieces – known as the 'Treasure of Villena' – are over 3,200 years old (photo: MUVI/Museovillena.com)

Yet, inadvertently – or so it is believed – material from space found its way into the craft and tool workshops of Spain back in the 10th to the 13th centuries B.C.E. (BC).

Archaeologists have revealed astonishing new information about findings from a dig in Villena, western Alicante province, that have been on display in the local museum for 60 years.

An article published in Science Alert says parts of the 59 objects that form the Tesoro de Villena ('Treasure of Villena') were made with 'extra-terrestrial' substances that long pre-date the humans who used them.

 

'Communal treasure': “There were no kings and queens back then”

Discovered in 1963, valuable pieces made from gold, silver, amber and iron – mostly jewellery and other decorative items – have been exhibited at Villena Archaeological Museum ever since, but recent analyses of them have unearthed a whole new backstory.

At least two of the 59, manufactured between 1400 and 1200 B.C.E., were made using steel from a meteorite that had fallen to Earth 'approximately a million years ago', explain researchers.

Archaeologists working on the Villena dig, who discovered the treasure in 1963 (photo: Alicante University)

Some of the other 57 may also have been created using space rocks, but so far, detailed studies have only been made of a C-shaped iron bracelet and a gold-plated hollow sphere with a sword handle engraved onto it.

“The link between gold and steel is important, since both elements carry great symbolic and social value,” explains main research author Ignacio Montero Ruiz, who works for the History Institute of Spain.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com



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What's new at Barcelona Mobile World Congress 2024?
Thursday, February 29, 2024

A FIRM annual fixture for fans of the latest technology, the Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress (MWC) never fails to blow visitors' minds with creations they didn't know they needed. And these cutting-edge inventions are not just about ever-more sophisticated mobile phones and similar gadgetry – the futuristic concepts showcased cover all areas of life and work in a bid to make both as easy as possible. In 2019, the MWC even unveiled 'smart hives' for beekeepers.

Sponsors' banners at the entrance to the Mobile World Congress venue (photo: Mwcbarcelona.com)

Running until Thursday (February 29) inclusive, and looking set to remain in Barcelona year after year for the foreseeable future, here are some of the fascinating exhibits uncovered at the MWC 2024 so far.

 

Xiaomi SU7 electric car: Recharge for 200 kilometres in five minutes

Known as the 'Chinese Apple', Xiaomi is now seeking to become the 'Chinese Tesla' with its whizzy SU7. Electric, of course, and with a battery that will last you for 800 kilometres (500 miles) once fully charged, which takes just 20 minutes; a quarter-recharged in five minutes will be enough for most daily errands and medium-length journeys.

An electric car that goes from nought to 100 kilometres per hour in under three seconds, the Xiaomi SU7 is set to compete with Tesla (photo: @Xiaomi on Twitter)

From zero to 100 kilometres per hour (62 miles per hour) in 2.78 seconds, the Xiaomi SU7 can reach top speeds of 265 kilometres per hour (166 miles per hour) – although that's not recommended on Spanish roads where the speed limit on motorways is 120 kilometres per hour (75 miles per hour).

 

Read more at thinkSpain.com



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'Style Queen': UK media pours praise on HRH Letizia's elegant attire
Thursday, February 29, 2024

Queen Letizia 'rocks springtime chic' in an €80 dress by Dándara Spain (photo: Salamanca city council)

Described as an 'absolute goddess in green' by Hello magazine and as having a 'unique style' by the Daily Mail, HRH Letitizia was shown 'wrapping up warm' in recent photos against chilly winds in the mid-western UK county of Berkshire.

Letizia, 52, and King Felipe VI had travelled to St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle for a thanksgiving service in honour of King Constantine II of Greece, who passed away a year ago in January in his native Athens aged 82.

The Greek Royal family is directly and closely related to those of Britain and Spain – Felipe VI's mother, Queen Sofía, is originally Greek and her father's cousin was Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was married to the late British Queen Elizabeth II.

HRH Elizabeth II was third cousin to both Prince Philip and to Felipe VI's parents, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía – both still living – meaning King Felipe of Spain is a blood relative of Britain's King Charles III, as well as nephew to the late Constantine III.

Felipe VI and Letizia joined Charles III's wife, Queen Camilla, and his nieces Princess Beatrice and Zara Tindall, representing the UK Royal family in light of serious health issues that have left two of its key figureheads out of action.

Charles III is in treatment for an undisclosed type of cancer, and Princess Catherine of Wales is recovering from undefined abdominal surgery, meaning King Charles' son Prince William of Wales is having to split himself between his father, wife and children, and what Royal duties he can fit in between them.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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Foreign incomers push population above 48 million for first time ever
Friday, February 23, 2024

SPAIN'S headcount has risen to its highest figure in history – for the first time ever, the population has broken the 48 million barrier.

Spain's population has seen a resurge in growth in the 2020s, following consistent decline in the preceding decade (photo: Freepik)

If the trend of the 2020s continues, the country could easily surpass the 50-million mark before the end of the decade, based upon an average of between a half and three-quarters of a million new residents every year.

As has been the case for many years now, the swelling headcount is almost entirely due to immigration, not to childbirth, since natality rates have been falling consistently since the end of the last century and average ages for first-time motherhood have continued to rise.

 

Headcount rises in all regions and number of household units soars

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), as at January 1 this year, the exact number of inhabitants in Spain was 48,592,909, having gone up by 507,548 since January 1, 2023.

These official figures do not include foreign-born residents without permits, or who have not signed on their local town hall population census, known as the padrón, meaning the total is likely to be higher and may well already be above 50 million.

The east-coast region of the Comunidad Valenciana has seen the third-highest population growth in the last quarter. The picture (by regional tourism board Comunitatvalenciana.com) shows the central city hall square in the capital, Valencia

The overwhelming majority of the annual increase is through non-Spanish-born citizens moving to the country, with foreigners currently totally around 6.5 million, or approximately 13%.

Population increases were seen in all regions in Spain, although the most notable expansions were found in the city-province of Melilla on the northern African coasr, with its headcount of roughly 90,000 rising by 0.64%, followed by the Greater Madrid region (0.44%) and the Comunidad Valenciana along the east coast (0.41%).

Along with the population rise, the number of households in Spain has multiplied – in some cases linked to the rising resident figures, and in others, due to couples separating or young people moving out of their parental homes.

Spain's 48.6 million residents live in 19,346,386 household units – an increase of 45,560 over the last three months of 2023.

 

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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