By Humphrey Carter

PALMA

THE euphoria generated by reports of huge surges in bookings for Balearics holidays in the UK, Germany, France and Italy at last week's ITB tourism fair in Berlin has been short lived with union's determined to carry out their threat of 22 days of industrial action at airports across the country this summer beginning over Easter.

While the strikes are going to affect all holiday markets, British travellers are facing double trouble.
They face the threat of a double whammy of industrial action by UK cabin crews and Spanish airport ground staff this summer as well as 24-hour closures by restaurant and bar owners across the Balearics in protest over the new anti-smoking laws.

15 MILLION

Around 15 million Britons holiday in Spain each year, with Ryanair planning to cancel 300 flights affecting thousands of passengers booked to travel over the Easter period, with other carriers set to follow.

British Transport minister Theresa Villiers has even got involved and is urging both sides of the Spanish dispute to come back to the table and reach agreement.

Yesterday in Madrid, union bosses and the Transport Secretary, Isaías Táboas, resumed talks in a bid to break the deadlock and, as talks continued into the afternoon, union sources revealed that they were pleased that the Ministry for the Public Works and the government has got involved in the negotiations.

However, the talks in Madrid are expected to drag on through the week and here in the Balearics, the local government has called the regional union leaders together this morning to discuss the situation.

All sectors of the Balearic tourism industry has condemned the strikes and warned that industrial action on this scale could cause the islands serious damage, not only financially, but also to its image in a year when the region could emerge from the recession with hotels continuing to issue “stop sell” orders to UK and German tour operators amidst fears of over bookings due to the high demand for Balearic holidays this year.

The Balearic Minister for Employment and Tourism, Joana Barcelo, will chair today's meeting and local union bosses have made it clear they want talks here in Palma to follow the same lines as those already underway in Madrid.

But, following the attacks launched by the President of the Balearics, Francesc Antich, on striking airport staff and their unions, some local union bosses doubt the Balearic government is going to be able to avert the strike on its own.

That said, both sides of the dispute here in Palma agree that central government's plan to part privatise Spanish airport authority Aena by selling of 49 percent is not suitable for airports in the Balearics and want a more flexible model which will involve local business, tourism and government.

The domestic and international tourist industries want a swift solution because the longer the talks drag on and the longer the threat of the strikes hangs in the air, consumers who have not booked their Easter or Summer holiday yet, will become increasingly uncertain about coming to Spain and the Balearics.

In the UK, for example, holiday makers have been advised to check their insurance policy small print carefully following the threat of the strikes.
Stuart Bensusan, of travel add-ons website EssentialTravel.co.uk, said travellers who bought their cover after March 9 cannot expect to be covered for delay and travel abandonment.

He said: “We are advising those who have purchased travel insurance to check the terms and conditions of their policy in order to understand properly what they are and aren't covered for. “Only customers who booked their insurance prior to March 9, 2011 will be covered fully, as per their terms and conditions, for claims arising from disruption caused by the Spanish strike action. “Cover will also be automatically extended should their return travel arrangements be affected. “Anyone purchasing travel insurance from March 9 onwards should be fully covered for medical and baggage claims, however, they are unlikely to be covered for travel delay, travel abandonment and missed departure but should check their policy wording.” A total of 22 days of stoppages are planned from April 20 with flights to Portugal and Morocco also expected to be affected as they fly through Spanish airspace.

The dates for the planned strikes are April 20, 21, 24, 25 and 3, May 2, 14, 15, 19 and 20, June 13, 23, 30, and July 1, 2, 3, 4, 15 and 31 and August 1, 15 and 31.

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