THE Secretary General for Tourism Juan Costa said yesterday that the fall in tourism this year in the Balearics was concerning and added that perhaps the industry needed to have a long hard think as regards its future. He was speaking yesterday as British tour firms, like their German counterparts, slashed their prices making the price of a holiday in Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza as cheap as dinner for four in a luxury Majorcan restaurant. But despite the super-low offers the number of tourists coming to the Balearics is down by three percent. Britain's biggest tour firm, Airtours, last week in England was offering holidays to Majorca half board from £139 at resorts across the island. Ibiza was even cheaper at £129 while Minorca was much the same. But according to official figures the only Spanish holiday destinations which appear to be having problems are the Balearics. The number of people visiting Spain has in fact increased by around three percent this year. Why are the Balearics having so many problems? The view on the High Street is that in some cases, travel agents (now mostly owned by tour firms) can't give the Balearics away. Hoteliers announced yesterday that they are enjoying an occupancy level of 87 percent, relatively high but at this time of the year there are general reports of overbooking. The view from the local ministry for tourism is that in Germany Majorca has been hit by a wave of bad publicity from the water crisis to the tourist tax. In Britain, although tourism to the Balearics is up, there still must be a considerable number of empty beds hence the offers which are being made. Costa is right. Things do not appear to be going right for the Balearics this year. At the end of the summer the local ministry for tourism should carefully look at the state of the industry and then decide whether or not the industry can afford a tourist tax. A walk up any high street in Britain does not make good reading for the Balearics with small cards in the window of travel agents offering Majorca for just £129.

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