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INSIDE SPAIN

Inside Spain: Building safety and summer flights no longer low-cost

In this week’s Inside Spain we look at building safety standards in Spain following the restaurant collapse in Mallorca which killed four people, and how flight prices for so-called low-cost airlines flying to Spain aren’t that cheap anymore.

Inside Spain: Building safety and summer flights no longer low-cost
Firefighters at work one day after a two-storey club-restaurant collapsed, killing four and injuring 16 people on Playa de Palma, south of the Spanish Mediterranean island's capital Palma de Mallorca, on May 24, 2024. (Photo by Jaime REINA / AFP)

Avoidable tragedies involving buildings’ below-par safety standards have made headlines in recent months in Spain. 

There was the Murcia nightclub fire in which six people died and several were charged for manslaughter, the building collapse in Badalona that killed three, the huge blaze in a Valencia residential high-rise where the cladding made the flames engulf the building and kill ten people, and on Thursday May 23rd the partial collapse of a restaurant in Mallorca, where four people lost their lives.

And these are by no means the only accidents involving poor building standards that have taken place in the country over the past year.

READ MORE: ‘Excessive weight’ may have caused Mallorca restaurant collapse

One in every two buildings in Spain is more than 40 years old, and in regions such as the Basque Country, Catalonia and Aragón the ratio is even higher. 

That means there’s a high chance that 13 million properties in Spain are not necessarily up to current safety standards, even though many of these could be refurbished with the €4.4 billion Spain is receiving from the EU Next Generation scheme.

“In Spain, people care more about having a stamp on a piece of paper than facing  the risk of a fire,” architect Juan Bautista Echeverría Trueba, a professor at the University of Navarra, told Spanish newspaper El Confidencial following the Valencia residential block fire.

READ ALSO: How safe are Spanish buildings when it comes to fire standards?

And it’s not just fire safety concerning experts. Up to 82,000 engineers from across Spain have criticised government attempts to introduce new anti-earthquake building regulations they say do not meet EU standards. 

READ ALSO: What are the chances of a big earthquake happening in Spain?

In 2021, researchers at Alicante University found that buildings along Spain’s southern and eastern coastline, from Málaga to Valencia, were those most at risk of collapsing due to an earthquake.

Whether it be excessive weight from overcrowding, ageing buildings, outdated licences and regulations, owners cutting corners or a set of unfortunate circumstances all coming together, there is increasing proof that Spain needs to harness the EU funds it’s receiving to get its building standards up to scratch. 

In travel matters, low-cost airlines may operate 68.5 percent of flights to and from Spain, but there is increasing proof that bagging a bargain is getting harder, especially for summer travel.

Prices for standard airlines are also up from June to September this year, but not at the same rate as for low-cost ones. This bucks the trend from 2021 to 2023, when low-cost operators only hiked up prices by 6 percent whereas conventional ones did so by 40 percent.

This year, low-cost flights between Spain and the UK have recorded the biggest price jumps of all compared to the previous summer (+31 percent on UK-Spain flights and +42 percent on Spain-UK flights), according to travel and tourism data analysts Mabrian.

Flying between Spain and France is also 19.5 percent pricier this summer, as are Spain-Italy connections (between 10 and 18 percent more) and Spain-Germany flights (+5.5 to +12.4 percent).

Low-cost links between Spain and the Netherlands have experienced the lowest price changes.

According to Carlos Cendra Cruz, marketing director of Mabrian, “the price increases we are observing reflect, on the one hand, the increasing operating costs of airlines; and, on the other hand, the growing demand to and from Spain for this summer season.”

Global conflicts such as those in Ukraine and the Middle East are also ramping up prices, other studies have found.

As we’ve covered in recent weeks, summer holidays in Spain are not the bargain they once were, but the country still remains a cost-effective destination compared to most Western European nations. 

READ ALSO: How much more expensive will holidays in Spain be this summer?

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INSIDE SPAIN

Inside Spain: Football baby boom and stopping students from renting

In this week’s Inside Spain we look at how previous footballing glory by the national team has led to a baby boom nine months later, and why the government’s next solution to the housing crisis is getting students out of the rental market.

Inside Spain: Football baby boom and stopping students from renting

After 12 years without any major footballing success, La Roja is in a major tournament final, as they prepare to square off against England on Sunday in Berlin.

Could it spell a return to the glory days of 2008 to 2012, when Spain won ‘everything’ – two Euros and one World Cup?

What’s almost certain is that if Álvaro Morata and company score enough this weekend, so will Spaniards, if you catch our drift. 

When Spain beat the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, nine months later in April 2011 there was reportedly a 45 percent increase in births in España.

Something similar happened in 2008 after Fernando Torres helped beat Germany in the Euros that year. 

Some demographers question the figures, but the truth is that Spain could do with any extra push available, as the country’s birth rate is in the extremely low category according to the UN, together with countries such as Italy and South Korea.

Interestingly, just like two young guys from immigrant families are giving La Selección the edge at these Euros, migrant families are also responsible for keeping Spain’s ageing population afloat. 

OPINION: Young black stars mirror migrants’ contribution to Spain

In a Sigma Dos survey carried out in early 2024, 82.9 percent of respondents of a reproductive age said they were not considering having children in the next five years.

Living costs, personal and career sacrifices, family problems and a bad outlook on life in Spain were among the reasons given for not wanting to become parents.

READ ALSO: The real reasons why Spaniards don’t want to have children

With such a dire outlook, it’s likely that there will be far more Spanish babies with Yamal or Williams as a surname than Díaz or López, and regardless of what far-right Vox and their supporters think of that, it’s going to be a reality.

Just as this week’s prophetic viral photo of a young Messi bathing baby Yamal in 2007 prove, it is simply meant to be. 

While we’re on the subject of young people having a tough time getting their life in order, university students are definitely struggling when it comes to finding accommodation in Spain. 

READ ALSO: Two million university students in Spain fight to find a room

All they need is a room, but competition is so stiff in the current rental market that it’s no longer uncommon for them to have to pay over €500 a month for a few square metres.

According to Spain’s Housing Minister Isabel Rodríguez, they’re indirectly putting extra pressure on regular rents’ availability and prices, as greedy landlords have realised that they can get far more money renting out each individual room than the whole unit to one person or family.

Therefore, as part of the series of measures that Spanish authorities keep coming up with to address the proliferation of holiday and seasonal lets and their impact on residential rents, the aim now is to get Spain’s 2 million university out of long-term rental units. 

In order to do this, the Spanish government will reportedly help public universities to provide more in-house accommodation for undergrads which is specifically for them. 

How exactly they will do this has not been announced, but if the progress of social housing as a solution to Spain’s housing crisis is anything to go on, it will be slow.

Rodríguez mainly pointed the finger at private universities, of which there are more than ever in Spain (27 new ones in the last 25 years compared to no new public ones).

“Their presence has put pressure on some rental markets where they are based,” the minister argued, adding that they should also make sure to provide lodgings to their students rather than let them “occupy” the cities.

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