Staff Reporter THE Balearics had the highest hotel occupancy rate in Spain during May this year, with nearly 56 percent of available places booked. The National Institute of Statistics (INE) confirmed yesterday that this figure is 4.2 percent less than figures for the same month last year. It has also detected that the Islands have registered a 1.6 percent year-on-year fall in prices, the highest in the country.

During the month of May, more than 20.6 million overnight stays were registered in hotels throughout the country, equivalent to a fall of 1.7 percent in respect of May in 2003; while hotel prices rose by 1.5 percent.

During the first five months of 2004, the number of overnight stays made in tourist establishments rose by 1.8 percent, 0.7 decimal points higher than growth in the same period in 2003.

During May this year, Spaniards made 7.3 million overnight stays, almost 3 percent more than in May 2003, while visitors from outside Spain made 13.3 million overnight stays, 4.1 percent less.

Given that the year-on-year growth of the number of visitors (3.9 percent) is greater than the number of overnight stays, the average stay reduced by 5.4 percent with respect to May in 2003. Owing to the increase in availability (3.5 percent), the degree of occupancy in May also fell by 4.9 percent, to stand at 49.3 percent.

Analysing the geographical origins of hotel clients from Spain, 22.9 percent of overnight stays were made by Spaniards from Madrid; 15.9% from Catalonia; 14.8% from Andalucia; 7.8% from Valencia; 5.7% from the Basque Country, and 5.6% from Galicia and Castilla y Leon, respectively.

Visitors from Germany and the United Kingdom made 8.5 million overnight stays in Spain during May this year, equivalent to 63.3 percent of the total; the number of overnight stays made by Germans grew by 1.7 percent while those made by the British fell by 10.2 percent.

Also on the decline were the number of overnight stays made by French visitors, standing at only 8 percent, as well as those made by visitors from the Low Countries, only 1 percent.

Broken down into country of origin of foreigners making overnight stays in Spanish hotels during May, the British were responsible for 34.5 percent of the total; Germany, 29.1%; France, 7.9%; the Low Countries, 4.8%; Belgium, 3.7%; Italy, 2.9%; and the United States, 2.4%.

The Balearics registered the highest number, of all Spain's regions, of overnight stays made by foreigners, registering 35.8 percent; followed by Catalonia, 19.1%; the Canary Islands, 15.7%; Andalucia, 14.6%, and Valencia, 5.9%.

Spaniards were responsible for 19.2 percent of overnight stays made during May this year in Andalucia; 13.5% in both Catalonia and Valencia; 9% in Madrid; 7.2% in the Canary Islands; 7.2%in Galicia and 6.5% in Castilla and León.

With respect to prices, the downward trend in the Balearic and Canary Islands were the most notable year-on-year decreases of 1.6 and 0.1 percent, respectively. These two regions are included in the five which go to make up 77 percent of the price index weighting in May this year.

In Andalucia, prices increased by 1.9 percent, 0.6 percent less than the previous month and in Madrid, with an increase of 0.6 percent, also register a fall of 0.1 points in respect of April and maintains the downward trend begun in March of 2004.