AS of today's date, the Balearic Ports Authority's cruise ship schedule for the whole of this year is estimated as being 7.6 percent down on the actual traffic recorded in 2003.
However, this data could change as the holiday season progresses, in view of last-minute price offers put forward by the tourist organisations.
In the port of Palma, 427 tourist cruise ship operations are scheduled throughout 2004, compared to the 429 registered in 2003, of which 199 will be based in Palma and 228 will only make stopovers.
This programme has, however, undergone an important change in relation to 2003, since the cruise boats which actually use the Islands as their base are those which generate most tourist spending power. This year, the figure on Majorca will increase by 10 percent although the number of stopovers will fall.
The port of Mahon on Minorca currently has 93 cruise ship stopovers scheduled for this year, compared to the 107 registered n 2003; the port of Ibiza will host at least 98 stopovers in 2004, against 125 clocked up last year; while the port of Savina on the island of Formentera has another 7 stopovers programmed this year, compared to 16 in 2003.
The Ports Authority of the Balearics confirms that it cannot make estimates of total passenger numbers arriving in the Islands during the year, due to the different authorised capacities of the visiting ships and to the unknown quantity of passengers on each.
It would be true to say, however, reported the Authority, that over the last few years, this leisure sector is experiencing a notable increase in the maximum passenger capacity of cruise ships. This, in turn, leads to a lesser number of ports actually visited en route.
Meanwhile, the Balearics is registering an upward trend in the demand for seagoing tourism in general, and for cruise ships in particular. In 2003, 921'234 visitors came cruising to the Islands, an increase of 19 percent on the previous year.
Furthermore, the Chambers of Commerce of Majorca, Ibiza and Formentera, as well as seagoing tourism management organisations in the Balearics have drawn attention to the growing demand in the sub sectors of this industry, such as giant cruise ships and yachts.
Nevertheless, they also pointed out, that the Islands are behind the times when compared to rival holiday destinations in terms of insufficient mooring space.
In the view of leading figures in the sector, this factor alone currently prohibits further development of complementary services to seagoing tourism.
Aware of the shortcomings, the Balearic government has plans to make modifications to the port areas to provide better reception facilities for cruise ships.