DESPITE having been the only region in Spain to have suffered a decline in tourism last year, the Balearics headed for Spain's main travel trade fair, FITUR, in Madrid yesterday in bouyant mood. Brimming with optimism, the Balearic Minister for Tourism Celesti Alomar, confirmed that despite the 6.7 per cent slump in tourism last year, although that figure does not account for the nautical tourist industry, this year Balearic tourism will see a “slight growth.” Alomar said that while the Balearics is continuing its promotional drive in the UK in order to bolster its number one market and fuel further growth, it is also having to try and revive the package sales in Germany which fell sharply last year, accounting for the bulk of the 6.7 per cent slump in visitors. Alomar is also concerned about the domestic market which failed to perform as expected last year. He claimed yesterday that airport taxes leading to high domestic air fares put many people off, although the domestic reaction to the tourist tax was extremely negative. But not only does Alomar want to encourage more domestic tourists back this year, he also intends to use FITUR to convince people that the Balearics “is not just a summer destination but an all year round one.” He knows competition is tougher now that it was two years ago, both at home and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. By the start of 2005, 450'000 new hotels beds will have been built in the Mediterranean basin, in particular in Croatia, Turkey and Bulgaria. Alomar believes that this year will see demand for Mediterranean holidays start to consolidate with demand perhaps falling short of supply - but he is confident that in the event of a war in Iraq, the Balearics will not suffer as over the years the British and the Germans have come to see the Balearics as a “haven.” The Balearics will also be using FITUR to try and convince the domestic industry about the merits of the tourist tax. Some regions, such as Andalucia, one of the big winners last year with near record tourism figures, have studied the project and overwhelmingly reject the levy on the grounds it would have a negative effect on tourism, and promote the new alternative, cultural tourism market - in direct competition with a host of other Spanish regions.


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