THIS weekend will be one of the busiest at Palma's Son Sant Joan airport, as it marks the start of the July holidays for many people.
More than 308'000 passengers and 2'280 flights are expected, an airport spokesman said, adding that the figures showed a 4.55 percent increase in passengers and a 3.4 percent increase in planes compared to the same weekend last year.
Today will be the busiest day, when 99'400 passengers and 755 landings and take offs are expected.
Figures for the first weekend in July last year were 294'982 passengers and 2'195 flights.
There were 614 flights and 72'161 passengers on the Friday, 878 flights and 129'650 passengers on the Saturday and 703 flights and 93'171 passengers on the Sunday.
The number of visitors has been increasing steadily, despite a reported drop in British tourists, and in May the number of passengers was up by 3.7 percent (5.3 percent in the first five months of the year).
A third of the flights in May began or ended in Germany, with flights to and from Britain in second place.
The airport is expected to handle a record-breaking 20 million passengers this year, five percent more than 2003, which has led to calls for the airport to be expanded.
There has been stiff opposition to this move, and the plans which have been drawn up already have been slammed as unsustainable by the Council of Majorca, which has asked Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to halt them.
A huge increase in the number of Spanish visitors to the island is expected as Spanish travel agencies report that only seven to ten percent of Spaniards want to spend their holidays abroad this year.
And just like their foreign counterparts, they will be heading for the beaches, although a large number will continue to return to their home village.
The Spaniards who do go abroad favour the European circuits and long haul trips such as the Caribbean or Latin America.
Gaining in popularity are cruises or trips to Africa and Asia.
A travel agency spokesman says that Spaniards have been favouring last minute bookings for conventional trips to popular resort areas such as the Balearics or the Canary Islands, or for long weekends and short haul trips.
But the long haul trips, which are much dearer, are booked well in advance.
A spokesman for the travel agents had a word of advice about late bookings, and that is to read the small print. He said that for every offer which works or you find, nine are not suitable because the dates are not right, the resort is not the one you would prefer, nor the hotel the one which you would have liked. Airlines are still being affected by the increase in oil prices, which has led to a reduction in seats to many destinations.
The travel agents said that Spaniards no longer feel the need to travel abroad, as they did years ago, and have realised that they can enjoy peaceful holidays at home. Most of those who go abroad go to a European Union country, as they no longer feel foreign. Another advantage is that there are no frontier problems, and the currency is the same.
Ten percent of the Spaniards who go abroad will choose Latin America, because of the language and cultural ties, and the Caribbean.
In recent years, growing numbers of European tourists visiting the Balearics and the rest of Spain have been deserting the beaches for cultural tourism.
Most of the visitors this summer will come from Europe and 75 percent of them say that they have been before and will come again. An increasing number of visitors from the US, Canada, Japan and China are also visiting the country.
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