IF we are heading for a record breaking holiday season, like Palma airport and the local ministry for tourism keeps telling us, why is it that most of the business sector is complaining? Why is it that many say that their takings will be down this year? Why is it if you go to a restaurant you no longer have to book a table? And why is it, that while the Balearics has been talking about going up-market, many restaurants are actually down-grading. The reason is because tourism has changed on the island quite dramatically over the last two years. All-inclusive hotel deals have taken hold and Palma airport has become an important international hub. Now, don't be fooled, a hub in aviation terms is basically like a giant inter-section, people arrive and go elsewhere. But the airport is being rather cunning and probably the figures they give out are not a clear reflection. Palma airport being an international hub may appeal to the Balearic government but it does little for this island, tourists arrive here spend a few hours at the airport and then move on to their final destination. Apart from the landing fees paid to the airport authorities little money is earned by the island. But these people are still counted in and out and therefore the arrival and departure figure are inflated considerably. Palma counts tourists who are probably going on holiday to Alicante or Tenerife as their own. So on visitor numbers we may be heading for a record-breaking season in August. As we all know the summer season gets shorter every year at a time when it should be getting longer. In just 14 days the island will be closing down once again marking the end of summer'2005. End of story. The peak season lasts for just six weeks, not four months. I am told that this summer there will be even fewer winter flights to Majorca from Britain and Germany. Why? Because little or no attempt has been made to cultivate this market. Palma will never be a weekend getaway destination because the shops close down over the weekend.
The people who do deserve praise are those at the frontline of tourism who have changed and adapted to cope with the new market place. The local ministry for tourism should be listening to them, because I get the impression that they still believe that nothing has changed and that 99 percent of holidaymakers are coming on a package and looking forward to eating paella, seeing a flamenco show and buying a stuffed toy donkey at the airport! When Thomson Holidays, who pioneered package tourism to Majorca, starts selling property as well, it should start telling you something about the state of the travel industry. When you can cruise the Mediterranean on a luxury liner for under 500 euros including as much food as you can eat, it should tell you that the prices being charged on the island do not reflect the modern-day reality. I would urge the local authorities to visit tourist resorts and see for themselves. You don't need a blue-print for the future but you do need an insight into your market.
And while local politicians continue to talk about up-market tourists, big spenders etc...why is it that the majority of airlines flying into the island no longer offer business class? Surely, if we are going for the five star market the airlines which will be carrying the big spenders should be offering their top class as well? Yet more myths, and until the local authorities start facing reality we are not going to advance.
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