Category Archives: Finance

UK Changes Tax Residence Requirements

In June 2011 the UK government released their long awaited consultation paper on tax residency which is intended to make it harder to declare non-resident status for tax purposes, and clarifies a number of substantive points with particular interest to expatriate residents in Spain and other countries.

The most significant development is a series of five connection factors that determine if the individual is deemed to be a UK resident, even if they spend substantially more time out of the UK than in the UK. These include family, accommodation, substantive UK work, UK presence in previous years, and spending more time in the UK than any other single country.

The new residency regime is currently expected to come into effect on the 6th of April 2012 to give current non-residents time to normalise their tax affairs with respect to ensuring that UK requirements are being met.

In line with other EU states such as Ireland, the new tax residency regime will also make it easier to become a UK tax resident even if the individual does not yet satisfy immigration requirements, and in combination with reciprocal tax agreements within the European Union aims to ensure that all UK-based taxable income is assessed in the UK.

Expatriate residents in Spain who return to the UK every year for extended periods of time now need to be aware that spending less than 6 months in the UK does not allow the individual to declare non-resident status, and moreover, the new tax regime will continue to assess an individual’s tax liability for 3 years after leaving the UK.

Further information about the new UK tax residency rules

Impact of Michelle Obama’s Visit Cannot be Understated

Yesterday’s visit to Ronda by the US First Lady, Michelle Obama and her daughter Sasha, along with several of her family and friends is already being considered one of the most important events of the year, with expected tourism benefits for many years.

Aside from her short stay in the city which attracted thousands of observers (see our article, Michelle Obama Visits Ronda), most of Spain’s national press, and decent number of international press were also in attendance, and by the time Mrs Obama had left Ronda the Associated Press story was being syndicated worldwide.

Reporters from CNN, Reuters, and Associated Press were all in Ronda covering the historic visit, and their commentary made syndication to CBS, ABC News, Fox News, Huffington Post, The Telegraph, Washington Post, LA Times, Sydney Morning Herald, USA Today, India Times, and many more.

This begs the obvious question, with this much exposure, what can Ronda expect from the visit. Is this a one off visit that will quickly be forgotten, or instead does the First Lady’s visit herald a sign of great things for Ronda and the tourism industry which has suffered through the economic crisis as much as every other industry?

Of one thing we can be certain, the mere rumour of Michelle Obama being in Ronda encouraged visitors to descend on the city in droves, and many of them will have taken photographs and when they return home will be telling all of their family and friends how they came ‘this close’ to meeting Mrs Obama.

For people who aren’t familiar with Ronda the association of Ronda and Mrs Obama will stick in their minds, and when planning their next European vacation we can expect a fair few people to ask the question, where did Michelle Obama go? We know this will be the case if we only consider the increase in tourism Ronda experienced since the visit of Jamie Oliver to the Serranía.

Michelle Obama is a much better known celebrity than Jamie Oliver, particularly in the United States where presidential families are considered the equivalent of royalty. We can imagine American tour companies offering five day excursions to the Costa del Sol with the obligatory visit to Ronda and probably to Del Escudero or Tragabuches for lunch.

But in the wider context, Mrs Obama was overheard saying that Ronda “is magnificent” and that she would love to spend a few days enjoying our city. Publicity like that cannot be ignored, and certainly is foremost in the mind of Ronda’s Councillor for Tourism, Francisco Cañestro, who spoke exclusively to Ronda Today.

“From a promotional point of view, her visit has been a success for Ronda, we have been home to all of the world’s media, the importance of which is unquantifiable. I’m sure this visit will result in a significant surge of visits and will establish Ronda as a quality tourist destination.”

Ronda Today agrees, and would encourage our hoteliers and restauranteurs to re-evaluate their service standards, insist their staff smile more, and if possible, encourage staff to learn a few words of English and other major languages. Michelle Obama’s visit and recommendation will see Ronda ride the crest of a wave of tourists with money to spend for at least as long as the Obamas are in the White House.

The Real Maestranza de Ronda and the family that own Del Escudero are already planning their marketing campaigns to get maximum exposure from the Obama visit, and Cañestro is no doubt going to instruct the Tourism Board in Ronda to come up with some publicity as well.

And enterprising hotel owners such as Di Beach of Los Castaños in Cartajima have already written a tongue-in-cheek article on her business blog stating that Mrs Obama passed Cartajima but probably didn’t even see the paradise that is the Genal Valley. It will be interesting to see how other business people in the Serranía react to the boom that could follow from international visitors discovering Ronda for the first time.

Occupancy in Ronda Hotels Averages 40%

Spain’s National Institute of Statistics has completed its annual survey of employment on the tourism industry, highlighting that 250 people are directly employed by Ronda hotels.

During 2009 Ronda received 243,939 visitors who stayed at least one night in a Ronda hotel. This amounted to an average occupancy of 40% climbing to 50% at weekends, and around 95% during the Pedro Romero Feria and the following long weekend.

The strongest months in Ronda were April and May, and August to October which confirms the feeling shared by many hoteliers in Ronda that the summer months of June and July are just too hot for most tourists despite these being the months of Spanish school holidays.

Foreign tourists accounted for 54.5% of visitors in 2009, and the remainder 45.5% being Spanish, though significantly the 2009 figures show growth in domestic tourism of 3% as foreigners stay home or go to cheaper locations in Europe and North Africa to compensate for poor economies in their home nations.

Ronda News: Ring road to create 327 new jobs

In Ronda news, 327 jobs are to be created in Ronda over the coming months as work on the ring road and a new Arriate bypass begins, with a budgeted 18.5 million Euros allocated.

The economic recession in Spain has hit particularly hard in Ronda with tourism numbers down across the board, and the total collapse of the construction industry hampering efforts  to recover. An additional 327 jobs in this climate, 70% of them direct on the project, and the remaining 30% from indirect employment related to the construction work is certainly a major development.

Funding is being provided by Plan Zapatero, an economic stimulus program created by the national government to infrastructure projects going and dampen the blow to the economy with record unemployment of 22% nationally. Ronda’s ring road works are being coordinated by the province of Málaga Public Works and Transport Delegation.

All three of Ronda’s main road entrances are to receive work, with construction at the A-397 San Pedro road, and A-374 Sevilla road already started, and preparation work on the Campillos roundabout underway. The Arriate bypass planning has been finalised with construction to begin later this year.

Construction involves;

A-397 access near the new Ronda hospital at the beginning of the A-397 to San Pedro. As traffic increases with the ongoing construction and then opening of the hospital, traffic delays could be expected. An 80m bridge is being built and an overpass constructed for traffic going to and from San Pedro, this should free up the roundabout for local traffic.

A-374 overpass at La Dehesa to remove an accident blackspot as traffic leaving Ronda has to cross the busy ring road, instead traffic will filter into the stream as is normal on most highways.

A-366 and A-367 underpass to be built for traffic coming from A-374 entering Ronda on Avenida de Málaga, which will allow free movement of traffic from the Campillos/Arriate direction into Ronda.

MA-7403 to A-367 Bypass of 6km from Puerto del Monte directly to the A-367 Ardales road, which will remove through traffic from Arriate village, making the drive to Los Prados and Setenil quicker. People in Arriate have been complaining about traffic congestion for years, especially at a section of Calle del Carril which isn’t wide enough for traffic to pass.

Announcing the funding and approval of construction, Dolores Fernández, the delegate from the provincial council stated that the creation of 327 new jobs in and around Ronda should give a valuable boost to the local economy, and at the same time improve transport communication between Ronda an the villages of the Serranía, as well as making the drive safer.

Local environmentalists have criticised aspects of the development, particularly at La Dehesa where several thousand pine trees from the Parque Dehesa del Mercadillo have been felled to make way for the overpass and access on the A-374. Fernández has given assurances that 14,000 new trees will be planted after construction is complete, however she refused to be drawn on plans to purchase land in the immediate vicinity of the park.

Concern is mounting amongst environmentalists that the planting of replacement trees will be swept under the rug, and that petty politics between local and provincial governments will intervene resulting in the trees never being replaced. A petition is being organised by Ecologists in Action to demand public consultation on the replanting of trees.

Ronda’s mayor, Antonio Marín Lara has appealed to the people of Ronda and surrounding villages to be patient as work gets underway, with construction not expected to be finished before 2013. He commented that 24,000 vehicles per day use the ring road, and that the benefits to Ronda of improving the local economy far outweigh the short term inconvenience and loss of a small number of pine trees which will anyway be replaced with trees endemic to the area.

Hotel Occupancy Up in Ronda during Recent Long Weekend

Hotel Ronda Room
Hotel Ronda Room

Very exciting news for hoteliers and owners of self-stay accommodation in Ronda as the recent long weekend generated 90% occupancy across all of the Ronda Hotels.

Over four days, from Saturday 5th to Tuesday 8th December, Ronda was at its busiest with thousands of visitors from other parts of Andalucía and further afield descending on the city of the Tajo to enjoy the “puente”, translated as bridge holiday but also known as a bank holiday weekend.

“I had to turn people away, and with so many hotels closed for winter it was difficult to find alternative accommodation for guests”, so said Nieves Lara the proprietor of Hotel Ronda.

Statistics released by the Councillor for Tourism Maribel Morales show that 62.5% of visitors stayed at least one night in Ronda, while the remaining 37.5% were day trip visitors from Sevilla and the Costa del Sol. Most visitors stayed two nights in Ronda, with 11% staying the full four nights.

These figures are encouraging given the depth of recession in Spain this December, though retailers and a significant number of restaurateurs are complaining that takings are well down on previous years.