Dear Sir,

In response to the ‘Tourism Needs A Facelift' article in the Saturday edition of the Bulletin could I make a few comments? I work within the British travel industry and I visit Spain, primarily Majorca, several times each year purely for pleasure. My first visit to Majorca was in 1977 so I have seen a few changes. The prime factor affecting the British package tourist is cost and there is no question that prices increased considerably with the arrival of the Euro, not for the actual package purchased in the UK but for the daily spending once in resort. This has been made considerably worse by the decline of the GBP against the Euro over the last two years which has also seen the price of the package rise as hoteliers are paid in Euros. The result has been two fold, firstly the opening up of other locations that provide the sun, sea and sand that most tourists are looking for but at a much lower cost and secondly, an attempt to fix holiday costs by offering an All Inclusive option and so removing the need for spending on food and drink outside of the hotel. Choice is also vitally important and the arrival of the low cost airlines has given tourists the chance to assemble their own holidays by booking a flight from one company and accommodation from another - either directly from the hotel, through a hotel broker, via a villa rental business or direct from a property owner. This area will continue to grow and, as an example, one broker's web site has 255 available (legal) hotels for Majorca in May 2005 including some of the most famous names on the island with prices ranging from £14 per room night (2 people) to £194 per room night (both with breakfast). This list also includes agrotourism self-catering establishments. Significantly it also includes over 30 hotels offering All Inclusive at from £33 to £74 per room night (again for 2 persons) so it isn't just “illegal” accommodation that damages the hotel, restaurant and bar trade. A large portion is self inflicted. The future for package tourism in Spain over the next few years, as regards the UK market, seems to be one of declining numbers with all UK tour operators reducing volume. The estimate in the UK national press is that 60% of Thomson and Thomas Cook volume will be to Spain for next summer rather than the 70% this year, however it seems that the Balearics will suffer much less than the Costas. If tour operators cannot generate sufficient margin within a resort then they will adjust capacity accordingly. The Spanish market has changed and it seems that the demand for package tours is declining whilst the low cost airlines are providing the opportunity for tourists to have a choice in where they stay and for how long they stay with more but shorter breaks becoming the norm. The demand for agrotourism,villas and activity related holidays will increase whilst the need for low cost package tour hotels will decline as the market for these hotels moves to Croatia, Bulgaria etc. Cheap All Inclusive holidays will do little to change this but will contribute to the closure of many resort restaurants and bars. If I were a quality hotel chain I would look at how to capitalise on the new self-assembly market and maintain my quality image. The hotels that need to be concerned are those that cater for the ‘traditional' British package holidaymaker their customers are moving East!

Malcolm White


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