A travel agent's sign from a few years ago announcing the sale of Imserso holidays. | Miquel À. Cañellas

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Hoteliers in Mallorca who have been involved with the Imserso programme of holidays for Spanish senior citizens have decided to pull out of the scheme. This is in response to the Spanish government decision to freeze prices for these holidays for the next two years. The hoteliers say that this will not be feasible financially.

Imserso comes under the auspices of the ministry for social rights and not the tourism ministry - Imserso is the Instituto de Mayores y Servicios Sociales, Institute for the Elderly and Social Services. The decision has been taken by the minister, Ione Belarra of Podemos. The prices have been a bone of contention for years, as hotels receive a set amount per person per night under what is a scheme subsidised by the government. At present, this is 23.50 euros.

One of the hoteliers' representatives, Isabel Vidal of the Playa de Palma association, says that in addition to the increase in energy costs, "we must add the negative impact of inflation, which is why opening a hotel to accommodate tourists from Imserso will mean losing money at the current prices". "It will not be profitable to accommodate tourists from Imserso unless prices are increased. Hotels cannot assume the extra costs and the government should solve this situation in order to maintain the vacation programme."

In the Balearics, 44 hotels have been participating in Imserso. Mostly all of these hotels are in Mallorca and, with a few exceptions, they are either in Playa de Palma or Palmanova/Magalluf. A national scheme, the holidays for the 2022-2023 low season are due to go on sale in September, with the first holidays starting in October. The programme usually runs until April.

Regardless of the current inflationary situation, hoteliers have in the past pulled out because they can barely cover costs. This has happened in Murcia, for instance. Hoteliers are now saying that they should receive 30 euros per person per night, arguing that this would not be an expense, but an investment due to the positive effect it would have for local economies, for the maintenance of employment and for tackling seasonality.

In the Balearics, there have been some 150,000 beds for than a million hotel stays, but hoteliers on the islands as well as elsewhere in Spain are calling for the Imserso model to be changed. One of the most powerful voices in this regard is that of the hoteliers in Benidorm, where the terms have also been rejected and the hoteliers intend establishing their own scheme.