Hotel prices in the Balearics went up by 18.8 per cent last year, the sharpest increase in Spain and last month they rose again by just under two per cent. Nevertheless the hotel sector is confident that bookings for Easter will pick up at the last minute. At present, bookings are down by between 15 and 20 percent, in comparison to Easter last year, according to the Majorca Hotel Federation. But hoteliers are confident that the Spanish market will pick up in the final run up to Easter and compensate for the slump in bookings from the UK and Germany. The hotel sector's hopes and expectations have also been boosted by the fact that all of the Spanish airlines have stepped up the number of flights between the mainland and the Balearics over Easter which has been seen as a very positive move. At the moment, 60 per cent of the hotel sector is open, but the Federation believes that by the time Easter finally arrives, a further ten per cent will have opened their doors. The summer season this year does not officially start until May 1. Over the past few years, the start date has been brought forward in order to cater for massive demand from the United Kingdom and Germany. However this year, the start to the summer will be a sluggish one. But with one eye on the Spanish market, the Balearic Ministry for Tourism promotions department, Ibatur, is keeping another on the Italian market. Over the next few weeks, Ibatur, will be staging a number of promotional events in Italy to try and increase the number of Italian visitors to the islands. Every year some 280'000 Italians holiday in the Balearics, with Ibiza and Formentera the two most popular destinations. Ibatur believe that there is still time to increase the Balearics' presence in the Italian market ahead of the summer season. Ibatur is confident that the Italian market can be developed into an important one which could help compensate for the drop in German bookings this year - a gap which was filled by the British and the Spanish last year.