SPAIN SEEN AS A SAFE DESTINATION

Staff Reporter
AIRLINES have asked for 11 per cent more slots at Spanish airports for the busy summer period this year than they did in 2002, Spain's airports authority AENA said yesterday. The number of slots for the summer season at Palma, which starts on Sunday (coinciding with the start of summer time throughout the European Union) shows a 14 per cent rise compared to last year. The figures could be good news for Spain's tourist industry, which accounts for some 12 per cent of the country's economy and has faced stiff competition from cheaper eastern Mediterranean destinations. Industry officials say Spain could benefit from a perception that it is a safer destination and could attract summer tourists who prefer not to travel to areas closer to the Middle East such as Turkey during the war in Iraq. The biggest rises in slots requested are found mostly in busy tourist areas.
Slots requested at the airport of Alicante on Spain's east coast are up 27 per cent and but top of the list is Girona (the Costa Brava), up by 85 per cent. Spain's National Statistics Institute said last week that hotel bookings were up 2.1 per cent for April and 1.1 per cent for May compared with the same months last year. However, the demand for slots is only provisional and is subject to change throughout the season, depending on the decisions taken by the airlines operating in Spanish airports.

APARTMENTS
Also yesterday the institute said the number of nights spent by foreign visitors in holiday apartments last month in Spain, the world's second most popular destination, fell 6.7 per cent year–on–year. Staying in apartments rather than hotels is an increasingly popular choice for foreign tourists visiting Spain. According to the secretary of state for tourism, 9.5 per cent of the 52 million tourists who came last year stayed in rented accommodation and 19 per cent stayed in apartments they owned or which belonged to friends or family. Foreign tourists accounted for 92 per cent of the 4.5 million nights spent at holiday apartments in February.
Residents in Spain, which accounted for the rest, stayed 19.1 per cent more nights compared with the same month the year before.
Overall, the number of stays, including both foreign and domestic tourists, fell five per cent year–on–year.
The British and German markets, accounting for about 58 per cent of the foreign segment, posted falls of 1.7 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.

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