Spain's latest anti-smoking law came into force over the weekend with restaurant and bar owners complying with the ban on lighting up in many more spaces than the previous legislation allowed for, despite a lingering hope amongst some that the government may backtrack (read article in Castilian here, El Periódico). The new law forbids smoking in all restaurants and bars (the previous legislation allowed for such places that measured less than 100 square metres to decide whether or not to allow smoking on their premises) as well as in all indoor public spaces, whether they be cultural, commercial or belonging to the public administration.The only exceptions to the new law are psychiatric hospitals, prisons, certain areas in old people's homes and private smoking clubs. Gaietà Farrás, the vicepresident of the Spanish Federation of the Hotel and Restaurant Trade (Federación Española de Hosteleria) insisted that "We are the most obedient of businesses; in our trade, the law will be complied with. However, it's evident that certain communities were more lax than Catalunya in their demands that the previous law be complied with." This time however, the high amount of the fines, from €30 to €600,000, for not complying with the total ban are likely to persuade bar and restaurant owners throughout Spain to stop clients smoking. Despite this, Farrás said that they still hoped for changes to the law to return to the conditions of the previous anti-smoking legislation. The Health department of the Generalitat predicted that the large majority of smokers will comply with the new law; the Generalitat has said that, as it did with the previous law, in the first instance, its attitude will be more informative than to levy punishments on those who continue to smoke in places they now shouldn't. However, smokers won't be able to use the excuse of lack of information for escaping punishment in the long run, it insisted.
While economic experts predict that 2011 will be a more positive one for the Spanish housing market, the Spanish Mortgage Association (Asociación Hipotecaria Española, AHA) says that the number of mortgages issued here fell dramatically in the past year (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia).Two thousand and ten saw the number of new-build houses for sale stabilise following the collapse of the construction boom of the previous five years; around 100,000 new properties are now being built on an annual basis, a reduction of 90 percent compared to 2006. Sales of housing are predicted to pick up in the second half of 2011 particularly amongst young people who are looking to move out of their parents' home. Last year saw a significant fall in the amount of money loaned through mortgages compared to 2009, dropping from €157 billion to €135 billion. AHA believes that there will be a slight improvement in the mortgage market during 2011 thanks to "a demand that is necessarily more solvent and with less uncertainty." However, this recovery in the market could be made more complicated by the rise in costs of mortgages in Spain, a possible result from a rise in the Euribor rate, leading mortgages to rise by between €130 and €350.
Of the many nationalities of tourists that visit Barcelona each year, it is the French visitors who spend the most (read full article in Catalan here, Avui). Between January and November last year, tourists from Spain's northerly neighbour spent €291 million, an increase of 13 percent compared to 2009; once the figures are in for December, it is possible that the French in Barcelona will have spent over €300 million over the year. This spend represents 19 percent of the amount spent by international tourists in Barcelona; according to data from Catalunya Caixa, international credit cards were used to spend €1.5 billion in Barcelona up to the end of November. The other nationalities that topped the list of big spenders were those from the USA, Italy and the UK.