Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sierra Nevada Skiing Resort

If you're thinking of a skiing holiday, usually Austria or Switzerland come to mind, and there are some great resorts and packages on offer there - but you can also consider the Italian or French Alps, or cross the ocean and try your luck on the ski slopes of the United States. Alternatively, did it ever occur to you to combine your skiing with a trip to Spain?

If you are looking for a really unusual ski destination, try the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain - it's one of the most distinctive skiing and holiday destinations around.It is the most southerly resort in Europe that offers skiing, which you can enjoy from December to April, along with many other activities.Almost 3 000m above sea level and a mere 45-minute drive from Granada, it is a picturesque resort that offers Old World charm with modern facilities. Although it is small in comparison to other resorts in Europe, it did host the World Ski Championships in 1996.

Sierra Nevada has numerous runs of varying difficulties and there's wonderful nightlife and apres-ski.In one two-week holiday you can ski in the mornings and tan at a beach on the Costa del Sol by the Mediterranean in the afternoon. You can sightsee in Granada, visit the Alhambra Palace and enjoy the nightlife and cuisine of southern Spain.

Volvo Masters Prizemoney Increased to 4 million Euros

Volvo Masters Prizemoney Increased to 4 million Euros as Order of Merit Race Gathers Pace

Prize money for the 2005 Volvo Masters will increase by ?250,000 to a record ?4,000,000 when the 18th edition of the season-ending tournament takes place at Club de Golf Valderrama, Costa del Sol, Spain, from October 27-30.Defending champion, Ian Poulter of England, will be among a maximum field of 60 seeking the winner?s cheque for ?666,660 at Valderrama as the race to become Europe?s Number One reaches a dramatic climax at Valderrama.

With over ?17,000,000 in official prize money still at stake between this week?s dunhill links championship and the Volvo Masters, two issues have to be resolved, namely the winner of this season?s Vardon Trophy and the final composition of the field to contest the Volvo Masters.Valderrama has witnessed many exciting finales since 1988, and this year promises to deliver another rousing finish to a memorable year. Currently, New Zealand?s Michael Campbell heads The European Tour Order of Merit with ?2,398,201 as he seeks the Vardon Trophy for the first time.

Friday, September 23, 2005

European Golf Tour Qualification

A HOST of Scottish hopefuls begin the long road to a place on the European Tour by playing in the first stage of the qualifying school, which gets underway this week in England, France, Germany and Italy

Qualifying is also being held at Golf de Moliets in France, the Golf Und Land Club in Cologne and Italy's Circolo Golf Bogogno.

Around 25 players from each of the six venues after 72 holes this week will progress to stage two of the process in Spain from 2-5 November. The six-round final is at San Roque on the Costa del Sol from 10-15 November.

Water Woes: Spanish Golfers Demand Green Fairways as Farms Go Without Water

(Bloomberg) -- At a golf course in the shadow of Mount Abantos outside Madrid, near a 16th century monastery built by King Felipe II, Francisco Contreras swings his club, frowning as he sees dry patches of yellow on the green fairways.
``I'd much rather the course were green; it looks ugly when it's yellow,'' says the 37-year-old partner at a Madrid-based building company and a regular at the La Herreria course in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 35 miles northwest of Madrid. ``Golf helps me relax. It also oils the wheels of business.''
Just a stone's throw away, Inmaculada Preciado, owner of El Chicharron, a farm, says she's out of grass to feed her 200 cows because of the lack of rain. ``We're stretched to the limit,'' the 42-year-old farmer says. ``The golf course is much greener than the farm. I'm not sure where their water comes from.''
Spain's worst drought in more than 50 years is pitting golfers against farmers and ecologists. The shortage of rain water is threatening to dry up fairways at the country's golf courses, prompting some resorts to siphon off drinking-water to keep them green and safeguard $1.2 billion in tourism revenue generated by the golf industry.
``It's atrocious so many courses in Madrid are using drinking water,'' said Santiago Martin, a spokesman for Ecologists in Action, a Madrid-based lobby group, in phone interview. ``The situation is similar across Spain.''
Ten of Madrid's 29 courses face fines and at least two more on the southern coast known as the Costa del Sol are being investigated. The Confederacion Hidrografica del Tajo, which controls water usage in and around Madrid, declined to identify the courses or the likely size of the fines.
Drying Reservoirs
The drought is most severe in the central and southeastern parts of the country, which had less than 250 millimeters of rain in the 12 months through Aug. 31, half the average in the last 30 years, Spain's National Meteorological Institute says.
Courses in those areas need about 350,000 cubic meters (92.5 million gallons) of water a year, said Francisco Aymerich, chairman of Aymerich Golf Management, which manages 17 courses. That's as much as the annual use of 7,800 city dwellers, according to Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.
Water levels in reservoirs fell below the half-way mark and capacity is as low as 13 percent in parts of southern Spain, the Environment Ministry said in an Aug. 30 statement.
The government, in an advertising campaign, is urging water- saving techniques including turning off the tap when brushing teeth. Golf courses and private gardens face water restrictions if it doesn't rain more, Environment Minister Cristina Narbona told the Senate on Sept. 14.
`Easy Target'
``Golf is an easy target when there's a drought,'' said Miguel Angel Caderot, a spokesman for the Spanish Golf Federation, in a phone interview Aug. 31. ``It's seen by some people in Spain as elitist. But they should remember the economic benefits: tourism and jobs.''
At issue is the failure of Spanish golf courses to keep up with developments in water-treatment technology, said Sylvain Duval, an expert in golf course maintenance for Murcia, Spain- based company Polaris World. The company manages five tourist resorts in the country.
Polaris is among a handful of Spanish course owners that have in the last five years started watering grass with treated sea water. In the U.S, that has been happening for two decades and in Florida it's obligatory, Duval said.
Only two Madrid courses use recycled drinking water, which is the ideal means of keeping courses green, said Rocio Pattier, a spokeswoman for Confederacion Hidrografica del Tajo, the Madrid region water authority.
Recycled Water
``Most courses in Madrid were built a long time ago and haven't updated their infrastructure,'' said the Spanish golf federation's Caderot. ``Using recycled water is the way forward.''
About 20 of the 35 courses near south-coast city Malaga use recycled water, Alvaro Gonzalez, a spokesman for that region's water authority said. The authority is investigating two courses after discovering the ``large volume'' of water they're using, Gonzalez said.
A course near the southwest city of Cadiz was fined 60,000 euros ($74,025) in May 2004 for using water illegally for three years, said Ecologists in Action's Martin.

Las Dunas Shared Ownership Scheme

FEW places in the world do serious glam quite like Marbella. Shops are designer, yachts are gargantuan, and cars are super: no fewer than 250 Jaguars, 34 Bentleys, and 15 Ferraris, Maseratis and Aston Martins graced Marbella?s golden streets in 2004, according to the local Oh Là Là magazine. But with prices for top-notch properties in prime locations more often in the millions than the hundreds of thousands, most people can only dream of joining the jet set there. Until now, that is.
Tomorrow Premier Resorts is launching its newest shared-ownership scheme, where owners can buy a deeded one-twelfth share of an apartment for ?130,000 (£87,500). Attached to the beachfront five-star Las Dunas hotel, which is an hour?s drive from Málaga airport, Las Dunas Suites will have all the usual five-star services: daily maid service, valet car parking, 24-hour concierge, bespoke catering, babysitting, and access to two restaurants, spa, pool and gym. Owners will even be collected at the airport by a chauffeur, and their pictures can be hung and fridge filled before arrival.

The Las Dunas Suites? marketing material describes the scheme as ?lifestyle ownership?, and if it is the Marbella lifestyle you are craving you can find it by the luxury-liner load: breakfast at the hotel?s Beach Club eatery is all starched white tablecloths and silver cutlery ? chilled champagne sits next to bottled water on the buffet table.

The hotel?s Michelin-starred Lido is reassuringly demure, while at the Felix restaurant entertainment is put on nightly and the atmosphere is lavish. Bejewelled guests twinkle expensively, impossibly glamorous women glow in Dior and Valentino, the men in pristine pressed linen suits. Arrive in smart shorts and you will be turned away: this is continental sophistication, with a twist of Marbella excess.

Even when out and about, Las Dunas Suites owners will be able to live up to Marbella?s polished image: a privilege card will give them reduced rates on a range of supercars that wait temptingly in the hotel garage. Those wanting to cruise in style can pick up a Bentley Continental GT for a week for ?5,915. Or, for maximum posing potential, a Ferrari F430 Spider costs ?9,800 for a week?s hire. (More modest models are on offer.) Yachts can be chartered in Puerto Banús, about a 15-minute drive up the Costa del Sol; suite owners get a 75 per cent reduction on the normal rate of about ?2,500 a day. The concierge can also get owners into exclusive golf courses, such as Valderrama, on special rates.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Spanish house price over inflation "myth"

Research carried out on behalf of Spanish property investment site Kyero has branded reports of house price over inflation a "myth," and pointed to Spanish Red Guide 2006 figures, which have shown price appreciation of between 25 to 30 per cent some areas.

Kyero research suggested that there was little evidence of generalised house price over inflation. While top end properties, such as a four bedroom house in Costa Blanca have seen price decreases of around 5.8 per cent since June 2005, to 365,000 euros since June, Costa del Sol prices on the whole have remained constant.

"My impression is that it's primarily properties at the very top end of the market that are experiencing slight price erosion, most notably in some of Spain's more developed areas," said Kyero managing director Martin Bell. "That's not quite the same thing as a general slump in the price of all Spanish property."

Property investors have been advised to leave the most developed territories if they want to hunt for a bargain, as the level of development has dictated the level of house price inflation. While some are catching up with the Costas and are now steady, areas such as Tarragona and Costa del Azahar are still showing very healthy growth of 18 ? 20 per cent.

Two bedroom properties have appreciated by 28,000 euros and 20,300 euros respectively over the summer months.Crucially for property investment, demand for property has shown no signs of easing said Assetz director Stuart Law. "Capital growth in Spain is high and still forecast to grow at ten per cent a year for the next five years at least. Off-plan purchases at discounted rates still offer the best opportunity to maximise profits."

"Year-round sunshine and the extensive development in recent years of world class golf courses, makes 30- 35 weeks annual rental a realistic goal, with potential gross yields of 10 per cent plus. Investors looking towards lower priced East European markets should balance gains against a less predictable economic climate and lower levels of infrastructure, he added. "Even though property is cheaper in emerging markets, for reliability and stability of investment income, more mature markets such as Spain still stack up brilliantly against the competition."

Investment consultancy DBK has recently revealed figures showing the overall level of 2004 sales, with a record 181,000 coastal properties sold through the course of the year ? 13.1 per cent up on 2003 and almost 25 per cent of the total number of properties sold in Spain. Preliminary research has shown the number of sales sustained into the first half of 2005.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Electric car gives audio tour of Spanish city

Attention, tourists: Forget about stumbling on cobblestone and fumbling through guide books in stifling heat. Entrepreneurs in the Spanish city of Cordoba have devised battery-powered sightseeing cars with computers that talk.

The vehicles boast Global Positioning Satellite technology that provides passengers with their location and explains attractions with its tactile screen or audio recordings.
A memory card stuck into a USB port provides information in Spanish, French or English on more than 150 attractions.

A trio of entrepreneurs launched the business, called Blobject, in May after concluding that monument-rich Cordoba, featuring an exquisite old quarter and a Moorish mosque with a Catholic cathedral built around it, often got overlooked by tourists lured to other southern Spanish cities, such as Seville or Granada.

"Cordoba's marketing was very poor," said co-founder Alfredo Romeo.
The project joins GPS tourism efforts in places including Montgomery, Ala., where IntelliTours LLC offers audio tours of Civil War and civil-rights sites using similar technology.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Grey pound fuels Costa retirement homes

The increasingly greying population of the Costa del Sol ? where the number of over 80s has increased by 50 per cent in the last ten years ? will soon give rise to a new wave of property investment developments catering for the demands of an aging population, the leading Spanish daily Sur has predicted.

Property investment resort complexes incorporating nursing home services, such as medical care and supported living assistance alongside the traditional pools, have already begun to spring up across the Costa del Sol, and the trend is set to grow exponentially as the local health services become more strained and a current generation of retirees' ages."

The phenomenon of retired people from abroad arriving here was especially prevalent a few years ago because of the economic situation in the country. Spain was cheap for them," Ricardo Sanchez Bocanegra, chairman of the Federation of Costa del Sol Foreigners' Associations told Sur.

The Spanish health care system on the coast, which has already had to deal with an aging Spanish population as the young emigrate to the economic opportunities of the cities, is struggling to cope with the strain say experts "Foreigners living in the province have had a tremendous influence on the ageing of the population and that causes problems of health care because this floating population is not taken into account", comments geriatrician José Antonio Lopez.

The situation is further aggravated by foreigners with a second home in the province taking advantage of their stay here to receive free medical treatment, as guaranteed under an EU agreement. In addition to saturating the health services the growing number of elderly people has led to a shortage of places in old people's homes.

According to the Malaga Association of Homes for the Third Age there are 5,400 beds in state and private old people?s homes for a population of 43,000 over 80s.Faced with a shortage of public resources, and wishing to maintain their independence, the emigrant population of the coasts are already trading in their resort style condos for the new style supported and permanent retirement home investment property developments.

This will be supported by the wide number of middle aged and younger Europeans currently heading to the south coast of Spain looking for property investment opportunities and holiday homes, says Mr Bocanegra. "The free movement of workers and the fact that elderly relations are already here is attracting younger people to the country," he said.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Water Shortages

Spanish water authorities and local councils are drawing up emergency plans to ship water to coastal areas, following the country?s worst drought for over 50 years.

With no sign of a let-up in the dry weather for the central, southern and eastern areas, the government has now ordered contingency plans to be produced on the basis that the water shortage will probably last for many years.

The water authority for the Segura basin, which covers the coastline from Alicante to Aguilas, has announced that it is considering hiring sea-going tankers to bring in water from areas with a more abundant supply. Reservoir levels in the area are down to 12% and the summer tourism is increasing demand still further.

On the Costa del Sol, regional authorities have also announced that one of their major reservoirs could dry up by November and that they will be pumping water in from other parts of Andalucia. ?One of the conditions is that it will not be used for watering golf courses,? Andalucia?s head of environment told the ?Guardian?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Scorched Golf Greens turning Brown

The clipped emerald lawns of Spain's golf clubs are a lure to millions of tourists each year, but a sharp rise in the number of thirsty golf courses has made increasing demands on dwindling water reserves in a country fighting its worst drought on record.

Spain boasts hundreds of courses, mostly concentrated in the tourist regions of the southern coast. Their number more than doubled from 91 in 1989 to 250 in 2003, according to the Royal Spanish Golf Association.
More are planned to cash in on golf's tourism potential: the sport attracts well-heeled visitors and extends the tourist season, keeping euros flowing into an industry that accounts for around 12 percent of Spain's economy.
The average golf tourist spends around 4 to 8 times more than someone on a package holiday, says Roddy Carr, former Irish international and tourism consultant at U.S. sports marketing firm IMG.
"It's less people with more money," he said. He estimated the golf tourist industry in Spain is worth over $500 million.
Spain needs big spending golf tourists more than ever as it fights off competition from cheaper, more exotic holiday destinations like Turkey and North Africa.
Developers are planning around 21 new courses per year over the next decade, according to environmentalist group Greenpeace.
This could be bad news for precious water supplies in a country where the worst drought on record has slashed crop harvests and seen over 6,000 fires rage through forests.


The average golf course consumes the same amount of water as a town of 15,000 people in a year, according to Greenpeace.
Spanish water authorities are investigating 10 of the 28 golf courses based in the Madrid region following reports they have been using drinking water to irrigate the greens. There are also concerns that courses are not using enough recycled water.
But even environmentalists concede golf has an important role to play in Spain's profitable tourist industry.
"It's nonsense to say we shouldn't have golf courses here," says Guido Schmidt of environmental group WWF. "The question is the availability of water."
Some clubs have decided to make a feature of natural arid landscapes, rather than trying to mimic the sandy, grass-covered links of eastern Scotland, the historic home of golf which evolved from a game played there during the 15th century.
One municipal golf club on the outskirts of Madrid uses no water at all to maintain its course.
Although the land at the public Quijorna club is green during three seasons of the year, in summer it dries out and the browns and yellows of the central Spanish countryside dominate.
"The only thing we do is cut the grass," says vice director Javier Guerra. "At the moment we are using absolutely no water."
The 9-hole course stretches out beneath the sierras, dotted with evergreen oak trees, on land formerly used for growing crops of chickpeas.
The club plans to start watering the greens, where the holes are, and the tees to improve the quality of the game. But even so they will use only 20 percent of the water used by an average golf course, Guerra says.


On a far grander scale is the Desert Springs club, which has been hewn out of scrub and desert near Almeria, southern Spain and has hosted the Spanish Open International Championship.
The course was designed by golf champion Peter McEvoy, who led Britain and Ireland to success in the Walker Cup.
The club uses selective watering and aims to blend into the stretch of desert, beloved of "spaghetti Western" directors in the 1960s and where Clint Eastwood filmed "A Fistful of Dollars."
"Rather than watering everything, you're just watering the playing areas. You don't play solid green all the way from tee to green," said McEvoy. "It's a question of trying to design something that looks right in the landscape."
There is no reason why these innovative courses should be a rarity, said golf consultant Carr. Good design should eliminate problems with water supply, he said.
New strains of grass that thrive on salt and brackish water, selective watering and recycled water programs can make all the difference.
"If the planning laws and regulations stipulate strong enough policy to ensure that the golf courses are to be built with environmentally-friendly ingredients, then there is no argument on the environmental issue," Carr said.
Back at Quijorna, Guerra points at the larks circling nearby. He says wild boar come out at night to feast on the acorns from the oak trees. He doesn't see why golf must be played on grass courses.
"It's like playing football: there are many grassed football pitches like Bernabeu (home of soccer team Real Madrid), but there are hundreds and hundreds of earth pitches," he said.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Parched Spain plans to ship water to coastal areas

Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Friday September 2, 2005
The Guardian

Spanish authorities are drawing up emergency plans to ship water around the country's parched coastal areas in tanker boats amid warnings that the current record-breaking drought may last up to six years.
Most droughts over the past six decades have lasted between four and six years, an environment ministry report said last week.
With rainfall at record-breaking lows earlier this year, and no sign of a let-up for the parched central, southern and eastern zones of the country, orders have now been issued to draw up plans on the assumption that this drought, too, will last several years.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Spain: imports of citrus increase by 85%

Tholen - The Spanish imports of citrus from third countries have increased by 85,5% this campaign. The most important cause of this, is the frost which has hit the citrus production this winter. Meanwhile, the exports of citrus show a decrease. The imports through Spanish ports have about doubled. During the period between September 1, 2003 and August 31, 2004, about 97K MT passed through Spanish ports. Between September 1, 2004 and August 20 this year the amount of shipments had increased to 180K MT.

Because of shortages from private production, exporters sought after merchandise from third countries to supply the European market between February and June. But also outside the Spanish season, Spain is exporting citrus from third countries to supply it?s European customers. Imports from Argentina, South Africa, Uruguay and Brazil have therefore increased.