The British are coming to the Balearics, if nobody else is, and yesterday the queues at UK airport check-in desks which started to build up on Friday, continued. The schools have finally broken up for summer and all airports are witnessing the mad dash of people to get out the UK, away from the poor weather and onto a sunny beach. The Balearics is the top destination and, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), UK airports should be buzzing this weekend with nearly two million people coming abroad. The UK travel industry has admitted that this sudden rush for the sun has come as a surprise given a slowing economy, security concerns following 11 September and earlier predictions that the package holiday was fading in popularity. According to ABTA spokesman Sean Tipton, speaking on behalf of the travel industry, this weekend's air passenger estimates prove that the family package holiday is still alive and kicking. This is despite predictions that the explosion of low-cost airlines, geared towards the independent traveller, could spell the death knell for package operators. Short breaks and traditional package holidays are co-existing well, younger people are choosing independent travel but returning to package operators once they have a family, he said. Although the proportion of people travelling independently has risen, the market overall - including package holidays - has grown. Tipton said this is fuelled by greater wealth and falling costs of air travel. As a result, both package and short break operators say they are smiling. The growth of weekend breaks abroad is highlighted by figures from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). These figures reveal that small regional airport passenger traffic, specially geared towards handling low-cost airlines flying to short destinations, increased 6% last year. So British tourism will post a further rise this month in the Balearics. This weekend nearly 330.800 passengers are using Palma's Son San Joan airport, 11.000 people less than this time last year, but the bulk of the missing tourists will be German. This week however, over half a million people, 589.1000 passengers will be flying in and out of Palma, a little under four per cent less than the last week in July, last year. The British boom will be welcomed by, not only the local tourist industry, but the bar, restaurant and commercial sectors all of which have posted a sharp down turn in takings this summer. With the UK school holidays continuing until early September, the Balerarics is hoping that the British revival in bookings will save the summer.
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