By Humphrey Carter AFTER a summer of struggling hotels and apartment complexes, Palma's Son San Joan reported yesterday that this year, 19.132.000 passengers have used the airport, 1.300.000 more than last year. Airport bosses were also keen to point out that this year's total figure, which includes today's passenger numbers, is just 280.000 less than the all-time passenger record set back in the year 2000 when the airport handled 19.411.000 travellers. The outlook for the first week of the New Year is also showing a further increase in comparison to the start of this year. The number of Britons flying to Majorca this year was up 7.2 percent on last year with a total 4.974.473 passengers. The domestic Spanish market also posted healthy growth, the number of domestic passengers, 5.303.612, was nearly 13 percent up on 2002. More German passengers than any other nationality however used Palma airport, one main reason being because of the German airline hub in Majorca with many passengers using Palma to catch connecting flights to other destinations. Despite the 6.91 percent increase in German passengers, 5.958.376 in total, at Palma airport, there was only a three percent increase in tourists on last year, so nearly four percent were stopping in Palma en route to their final destination.

The big months for the British were January, February and May with passenger increases of 24.52, 18.74 and 22.08 percent respectively.
The rest of the year was a bit like a rollercoaster.
In March figures fell by 11 percent, only to rise by 11 percent the following month.
June also saw a slight drop off just one percent while July and August performed well, as did last month and this, and the British market is expected to follow a similar pattern next year. For the Spanish, April and June were the big months, while Germans flocked to Majorca in June and August although July witnessed zero increases on July last year. The main market fuelling the continual rise in air passengers at Palma airport is the residential home sector. While the vast majority of resorts and hotels are, for example, closed in the winter, passenger figures for November and December this year are up on last year, as were January and February at the start of the year. The low cost airlines in particular have all confirmed that their fastest growing market is the holiday home owner and professionals who have relocated to Majorca but still, work the week in the UK. There is also an increase in the number of independent, seat only visitors coming to Majorca, hence the seven percent increase in passengers has not translated into a similar rise in hotel guests this year. In fact, the Spanish association of resort hotels, Zontur, reported yesterday that it is expecting the year to end with a five percent drop in revenue.
However, Zontur boss Ramón Estalella admitted that 2003 has not turned out to be as poor as was feared back in March when the tourist sector was in the grip of the Iraq War, SARS and weak European economies. But the rising strength in the Euro is doing nothing to help the hotel trade.