The winter season started today, not in November, for many hotels, and those with a low occupancy rate are closing, giving staff early holidays. According to a spokesman for the Majorcan Hoteliers Federation, the exact number of hotels which will close today will be known over the next few days, once the Federation's members have replied to a survey. However, he added that poor prospects left many hoteliers with no alternative but to close, as a drop in demand has been a constant feature since the start of the year. At the height of the season, the 1'000-odd hotels in the Federation employ 60'000 workers. Figures for June show a drop of nearly 15 per cent in hotel occupancy throughout the Balearics, with drops of 10.21 and 4.21 per cent in July and August respectively. The spokesman said that the 4.21 per cent drop in August was “specially significant, because it is the peak month of the season, when major discounts have been given and 40 per cent of the places are sold through last minute offers.” Hotel owners who decide to close can bring forward their employees' holidays or take advantage of the situation to refurbish the hotel for next season. Up to last year, the high season lasted six months, from May to October, but this year, the hoteliers say that it is one month less, thanks to the poor results of the campaign to break the seasonal nature of tourism and encourage more winter visitors. The hoteliers' spokesman said that prospects for October are also negative and added that there has been a constant drop in occupancy rates since September 16. The situation regarding the low season is also delicate, the spokesman said, because of the reduction in winter tourism by Inserso, the Institute of Social Services, which organises cheap off-season holidays for Spanish pensioners, and the threat of war with Iraq. “Everybody knows that fewer pensioners will come because of the cut-back to places in the islands, and as if this were not enough, the world concern about what may occur in Iraq is also dissuading many people from programming winter holidays in the Balearics,” the spokesman said. He went on to say that in the Balearics, there is a cross section of German tourists who spend the winter in hotels, but the sector cannot count on them this year. The tourist tax has also played its part in the drop in visitors, according to the hoteliers, because it makes them less competitive. The spokesman said that the drop in business this year will force hoteliers to programme restrictive budgets for next year. “There has been less income, and so a hotel owner will refrain from making new investments or will suspend plans to make reforms if they are not strictly necessary,” he claimed. Most of the resort areas have reported a drop in the number of visitors with a few exceptions. They include Santa Ponsa in Calvia, where hotel occupancy rose by two per cent in August.


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