DEAR SIR

FURTHER to your thoughts on next summer (2010) ...my brother did a search to see how much it would cost for car hire in Majorca and was staggered to find out that last summer's astronomic prices are being replicated. In 2009 the excuse was a reduction in the number of cars held by the various car-hire groups and thus prices were forced up by shortage, but to see the same scenario rearing its head again is a disaster for the islands. Last year some people not on packages actually made the decision to lose their flights and go elsewhere rather than pay rates that were often over 500 Euros a week.

Although we love Majorca we have discovered that it is now cheaper for our family of 4 to fly to Thailand and Malaysia for 5 weeks in Summer 2010 than to come here to live in our own apartment - and that calculation includes all flights, travel, food and accommodation ( comparison on a do-it-yourself basis rather than package). We've already booked and paid, so our significant spending has already been lost to Majorca.

It is so sad to see Majorcan businesses suffering from lack of tourists, yet it seems it'll only get worse. The exchange rate is a major factor for Britons, that's not the fault of anyone in Majorca of course, and I do wonder if more shops could try adopting the system of accepting Sterling at a rate of 1.20...some have been trying this ploy but I've no idea whether it has worked for them. One problem with it is that few Brits arrive with a pocketful of Sterling, most have already changed it. It was interesting that our usual New Year's Eve restaurant venue in Son Caliu had reduced its all-in price (drinks and 6 courses) from 80 Euros to 50 this year, a good example of local business trying to get to grips with reality. Given that the UK government and the bankers have now saddled us with a level of debt that will last for decades there is little hope for any realistic improvement in the exchange rate, so the Balearics need to come up with some novel ideas or forever lose a traditional slice of the market. It is worth saying that even at a tourist exchange rate of 1.08, supermarket prices here for food are not substantially higher than in the UK for an overall shopping-trolley of goods, but other areas (car hire, eating out, leisure attractions etc.) all need to look closely at what they charge because parts of the world where Sterling offers better value are certainly taking tourists away from Majorca. Those paid good money to promote the Balearics abroad have failed pitifully as far as the UK is concerned. Unless this changes, an accepted “easy” market will be lost forever. They still seem unable to get together one multi-language up-to-date website with all events listed, so much happens in Majorca that would be attractive to visitors who never get to hear of it. One example has been the wonderful Puigpunyent music festivals, all free and of an excellent standard. I stumbled across them by accident. As to the excellent San Sebastian festival in January, getting information on it in the UK is like getting blood from a stone.

NB A month or so back I sent you information about a car rental company making me keep a printed sheet on my dashboard which had all my rental details etc. which identified the car as being tourist - basically, an invitation to break into it. However I've hired twice since with other firms and no such demand has been made.. Thought I'd let you know for info.

Steve Riches.

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