The Playa de Palma hotel sector is bracing itself for a long cold winter. Of the 150 hotels in the area, just 40 offering 40'000 beds will be open over the winter, nearly 30 per cent less than the 70 hotels which took the gamble and remained open last winter. President of the Playa de Palma hotel association, Jordi Cabrer, was yesterday quick to deny that the decision by hotel owners to close is a political one, as claimed by union bosses on Thursday, but purely economical. Cabrer pointed out that, for example, in his 200-room hotel, he has just 19 clients this weekend but a staff of 33. That is why hotels are closing, with some adopting a wait-and-see approach to when they open again next year. Hotel occupancy for September in Majorca was the highest in Spain, hotels were 76 per cent, albeit ten per cent down on September last year. However, hotels are nearly half empty this month with occupancy at just 56 per cent. With the debate over hotel prices raging, Cabrer said that hoteliers should adjust their prices in relation to the quality of product and services offered, but he urged the rest of the tourist industry, bars, restaurants etc. to do the same and set their prices accordingly. He said that there have been complaints from clients and tour company representatives this summer about expensive prices, pointing out that the introduction of the euro has made it much easier for visitors to compare prices. Industry chiefs said this week that Spain is now considered an expensive destination. The Playa de Palma has probably been hit the hardest by this year's tourism slump because 80 per cent of the resort's clients used to be German, but Cabrer added that the late arrival of pensioners on subsidised winter holidays from the mainland has added to the winter blues. Cabrer said that while the jury is still out on whether or nor the tourist tax hit summer tourism, pensioners, who have traditionally kept hotels ticking over during the winter in Majorca, coming for 30 days or more are going to reconsider as the tax will add an extra 30 euros to their trip. But Cabrer said that for the few clients they are expecting this winter, there is little in the way of culture for them to do, adding that the Balearic government is hardly doing anything with its Winter in Majorca programme this year.
However, Cabrer is confident that the threat of war against Iraq will help to lift bookings along the Playa de Palma for Christmas. The hotel association also believes that the new cycle routes from Palma to Arenal, along the Playa de Palma, will help boost tourism and has asked Palma City Council to spend 50 million pesetas on building a new children's park in the area. Cabrer said that the association intends to make a concerted effort to revive the family tourism market for next summer. The association is determined to revive the Playa de Palma and to remind people, of the good old days Cabrer presented the book Una evolución turística. Historia de la Playa de Palma 1900-2000 written by Tomeu Sbert yesterday. Marking the presentation, Palma City Council presented Iberostar's Royal Cristina Hotel with the 2002 award for Environmental Excellence.