By Humphrey Carter
Photo: T. Ayuga
PALMA is currently hosting the annual Spanish travel agents' convention and captains of the tourist industry yesterday said that the tourist industry has to have a major re-think about its future in order to compete with new Mediterranean destinations.

The vice-chairman of the Sol Melia hotel chain Sebastián Escarrer and director of Riu Hotels, Carmen Riu told delegates that the industry has to take some kind of action to halt the fall in visitors and revenue.

Escarrer said that, over all, this tourist season has not been a good one and especially poor in the Canaries and Andalusia.
He said that in the Balearics, despite visitor figures and hotel bookings being up on last year “it's been very bad for the past two to three years”.
The Balearics were one million tourists short of when the region's industry was at its peak at the end of the 90*s. “The Balearics has had a lot of tourists this year, but the truth is that many of the visitors are staying in unregistered, illegal, accommodation and that, with regards to extending the summer and decentralising the season, we've still got a long road to follow,” said Escarrer. “We've got to stop talking numbers of tourists,” he said. “We've got to start thinking about making sure the industry makes money,” he added. “If we don't restructure and reorganise ourselves, we won't be able to compete properly in the future,” he said.
While Sol Melia have seen business in the Balearics fall slightly, Carmen Riu said that they have seen a much sharper drop in turnover in the region. “We've got to make a real effort in all areas from the airport, the service sector, hotels, everything. “We've got to be better than the Turks, the Egyptians, Tunisians, Moroccans, Bulgarians and the Caribbean destinations.” Carmen Riu called on the government to help the industry make the change and hoteliers carry out the necessary reformations by offering tax incentives and grants.

She said the main reasons for the sharp growth in the number of “all inclusive” hotels in the Balearics has been the failure by the service and complementary sectors to adapt to the changing needs of tourists.

The two-day conference at the Auditorium, was opened yesterday by Balearic president Jaume Matas and the local tourism minister Joan Flaquer.
Today, the airlines will also be discussing the increasing problems facing their future, especially with the present oil crisis pushing air fares up.

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