By Humphrey Carter
THE Chief Executive of British tour operator First Choice, Peter Long, said in Palma yesterday that after a slow start to the summer, Balearics holiday bookings have picked up to match last summer's figures, although First Choice expects holiday sales in general for 2003 to be around two to three percent down on last year. Peter Long met the newly elected Balearic President, Jaume Matas and Tourism Minister Joan Flaquer for their first official round of talks since the May 25 local election. Long praised the local government for its ambitious infrastructure investment plan and promotional campaigns to kick start the Balearic tourist industry. He said that the scrapping of the controversial tourist tax was an extremely sensible and positive move in particular “it was not the best way of sustaining tourism” he said. Tourism Minister Flaquer said after the meeting that, in view of First Choice having a 16 percent share of the Balearic holiday market, the two parties did discuss possible joint-ventures to further boost British tourism in the future.

Long, who earlier this summer criticised major tour operators for “under-selling” products, especially those selling package tours at rock-bottom prices, said yesterday that First Choice holiday bookings will have fully recovered from the tourism crisis, which has hit all the global market and all tour operators since September 11, by next summer. However, while Majorca is still one of the most popular destinations, Long said that this summer, the strong Euro created a sensation that Majorca is becoming an increasingly expensive holiday destination. Nevertheless, Long said that First Choice's hotel partners in Majorca and across the Balearics have invested heavily in improving facilities and services, which the majority of clients have clearly appreciated this summer. The Balearic centre for tourism investigation and technology reported yesterday that this year, Minorca has suffered a four percent fall in British package holiday clients. Minorca, traditionally a British dominated holiday destination, is the only Balearic island to have witnessed a steady monthly decline in tourism, although during the first six months of this year, 344.682 Britons headed to the island on holiday.

Minorca accounts for 3.5 percent of the United Kingdom holiday market to Spain, but local tourism experts claim that Minorca's missing British holidaymakers this year have gone to the Caribbean.


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