By Humphrey Carter

STRONG British demand for Balearic holidays this summer is showing no signs of weakening despite reports of a down turn in summer holiday bookings and flight capacity reductions. Indeed, some key destinations, such as Greece which was one of last year's big winners with the British, are suffering from global instability and uncertainty caused by the Iraq crisis, but the latest market report released yesterday by the Balearic Minister for Tourism, clearly shows that the British have no qualms about coming to the Balearics this summer, Gulf War or no Gulf War. At the end of last month, as reports flooded out of the Spanish tourism fair FITUR about British summer holiday bookings for Spain slowing down, the bottom falling out of the market and hoteliers becoming increasingly concerned, the Bulletin calmed Balearic fears after speaking to tourism industry experts in the UK. They said that bookings were still 15 per cent up on last year and they still are, according to the latest report for January sales. Summer bookings for Greece are currently down by four per cent and Italy five per cent, while the Balearics is up 14 per cent with January being the most important summer booking period of the year. Compared to this time last year, Majorca bookings are up by 15 per cent, Minorca 10 per cent and Ibiza, which suffered slightly on the British market last year, 17 per cent. What is more, the Balearic holiday industry does not have to wait until the summer to witness the flood of British holidaymakers. Bookings for this present winter season have risen by two per cent, bucking all other European market trends for the Balearics. The January market report carried out by ACNielsen TravelTrack for the Balearic centre for Tourism Technology and Investigation (CITTIB) also shows that holiday sales did pick up last month in the UK. In December 32.619 package holidays were sold to the Balearics, last month, 247.258 were sold, so far 847.069 package holiday bookings have been made for this coming summer season which is 14 per cent more than in January last year. The mainland and the Canaries have also faired well, package holiday sales to the mainland are up 24 per cent, down on January last year and the Canaries 13 per cent superior to January 2002 sales. However, the Balearics can not afford to get complacent. The British are going to have a summer holiday this year and Bulgaria, for example, saw bookings surge by 80 per cent last month, Turkey 28 per cent and Florida 24 per cent. Even Cyprus sold 13 per cent more holidays than last year. The Balearics' slice of the UK market has in fact shrunk slightly since December from nearly 21 per cent to 20.2. But, the report has boosted the spirits of the local tourist sector which, since the gloomy Spanish travel fair at the end of last month, has been preparing itself for the worst. Balearic Ministry for Tourism sources said “the British market is performing very positively, not only for the summer but also right now with winter sales up two per cent. The general winter market was down four per cent over the past four months.” Tourism Minister Celesti Alomar last December said that the British market was the Balearics' number one client last year. Based on present market reports, the British will continue to dominate the Balearic tourist industry this year with the German market still showing no sign of pulling itself out of the worst recession to have hit the German travel industry, apart from fears of War in Iraq and record unemployment. .