Staff Reporter
SHORTAGE of berths and a lack of specialised workers are the chief “threats” to the growth of the nautical industry in the Balearics, a sector which generates 307 million euros a year, 7.3 percent of income from tourism, and employs 5'000 workers directly or indirectly.

Miquel Lladó and Joan Gual, the chairman and deputy chairman respectively of the Chamber of Commerce of Majorca and Ibiza/Formentera, stressed the growth possibilities in the sector, but warned of the limitations of space, which could lead potential visitors to opt for other destinations, such as Barcelona or Malta.

They were speaking at a meeting with specialised journalists from five countries, which was also attended by tourism chief Joan Flaquer and Joan Verger, president of the Balearic Port Authority.

Both Lladó and Gual underlined the importance of the nautical industry, pointing out that there are 63 recreational ports in the Balearics, attracting more than 200'000 visitors with a higher spending power than conventional tourists. Their average expenditure is 155 euros a day.

The sector is growing by 2.5 percent every year, but will have to tackle the problems of shortage of berths and lack of skilled workers, particularly in the fields of maintenance, repairs and services, in order to maintain this growth.

Verger said that the Port Authority is studying the expansion of the ports, particularly that of Palma, and his department will soon be presenting a master plan for Palma for the next 20 years.

He also said that the ports of Mahon in Minorca and Ibiza offered scope for expansion, while the possibilities of Alcudia were more limited. However, environmentalists are opposed to increasing the number of berths because of the damage this would cause to the seabed.

Promotion is another of the major challenges facing the sector. This can be done through major sporting events, such as Palma hosting sailing events as part of Madrid's Olympics bid, a new website which is being drawn up, or invitations to specialised journalists.

At the moment, there are journalists from sailing magazines in Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Holland on the island to study the industry, which has nearly 19'000 berths and generates a movement of 53'000 yachts a year.

They will be here until tomorrow and their visit coincides with the International Boat Show which can be seen at the Moll Vell until Sunday.

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