By Humphrey Carter
THE Balearic road show rolled into Newcastle yesterday with the Minister for Tourism making the most of the high-profile visit by Real Mallorca football team, to meet leading local travel agents, tourism bosses and the UK's main tour companies. Yesterday evening Tourism Minister Joan Flaquer held an informal briefing with members of the UK travel industry to explain the new government's tourism policies and to ease all the fears and concerns created by the “tourist unfriendly” previous government and its highly controversial tourist tax. Flaquer spelled out his plans to repair the Balearics' image and thanked the British market for its loyalty to the region, as holidaymakers from the UK have saved the past two summer seasons, compensating for the sharp fall in German visitors. Flaquer's visit also coincided with the recent launch of easyJet's daily flight to Palma from Newcastle and the Minister is well aware of how important the North of England and Scotland is to the Balearic tourism market. The North and Scotland last summer accounted for nearly half of all British visitors to the Balearics. This year both regions will be able to benefit from more regular flights to the islands which Flaquer hopes will only lead to even more British visitors. At the moment, however, summer holiday sales in the UK are not moving as fast as normal for this time of year.
January and February are usually quite brisk trading months, but according to the Association of British Travel Agents, the market is rather slow.
Nevertheless, there were signs that the market was picking up pace last month and not all the monthly sales reports have been completed by the travel agents. It will probably be a late booking year in the UK however. With the travel sector no longer hampered by terrorism and war, holiday prices have returned to normal, but because they have been selling at below normal prices for the past 24 months, consumers feel holidays this year are too expensive. “All that has happened is the market, in particular prices, is starting to return to normal, along with prices,” an ABTA spokesperson said.

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