New British Ibiza Consul pays a visit

February 18th, 2010 - 11:45 pm Posted in ibiza consul | Comments (0)

Our new local British Consul for the Balearic Islands (one of the busiest in the world), Paul Abrey, today came over from Mallorca to present himself and his new Balearic team, including Maria Leng, Ibiza’s new Vice Consul.

Paul has been British Consul in Mallorca for over four years now and has effectively taken over the Ibiza reigns from Helen Watson who retired last year. Her capable assistant, Maria, has now assumed the role of Vice-Consul for Ibiza.

Hang on? I hear you say – Ibiza gained full Consular status five years ago. Why the demotion back to Vice-Consulate status?

Paul dealt with the question admirably by pointing out the unnecessary duplication in administrative work reporting to HQ in Madrid and the need for more bodies at the front desk to deal with an unprecedented increase in enquiries and requests for help from the public, and in particular tourists. Last year the volume of calls and visits grew by 30%.

This seems odd considering that visitor numbers declined by 5%, but is partly due to the huge increase in ‘independent’ visitors – approaching 75% – and a subsequent reduction in the number of holiday rep’s on the islands. Additionally many people are travelling without the new European Health Insurance card or travel insurance.

To cope with this unprecedented increase in demand, which is of course global, the 21st Century Foreign Office and their network of Consulates are moving away from the previous model of a career diplomatic service and bringing in more people from the ‘real’ world – the private sector.

Paul is a perfect example. Grammar school educated and with a stellar career in banking – he became the youngest ever senior executive at Barclays at the age of 27 – more recently he has shaken up the Spanish Consular service by implementing ideas that would seem obvious in any competitive private sector business. For example, you may have noticed that you can now pay for passports and the many other Consular services by credit card, rather than the soon to be defunct cheque or postal order…

A more recent development has been the introduction of F3G, a satellite communication system enabling all staff to be contacted 24 hours a day if needs be, when a major problem arises.

You might imagine that employees would balk at such a potential intrusion on their private lives, but that is not the nature of those entrusted with solving the problems of their fellow countrymen and women. A recent job satisfaction survey revealed that 95% of Consulate employees “whistle on their way to work rather than on their way home”. This compares to an average of 30% for those employed in the private sector.

Paul himself admits that he took the job “to give something back” to the country that made him the charming and articulate man that he is
Don’t panic, we’re in good hands…

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