Palma.—As the market research figures have been suggesting all summer, the British market to Spain and the Balearics, was not going to perform as well as last year.

AT the beginning of the month, package holiday bookings to Spain were down three percent and the Balearics, two percent.
For the UK market to have posted a 0.5 percent growth in July is encouraging, but is was not enough unfortunately with BAA airports reporting a five percent fall in passenger traffic and little sign of a late surge in last minute bookings.

Be it the Olympics or the recession, it appears that more Britons than expected opted for a ‘staycation' in the end and, according to the Majorcan Hotel federation, bookings for September are “uncertain” and October is apparently looking even worse right now.

Yesterday, the President of the Federation, Inma de Benito, said that average hotel occupancy for August has been at around 90 percent, slightly down on last year when some areas of the island, in particular the north east, the Playa de Palma and Cala D'Or were fully booked.

De Benito went on to proclaim that if the island is not fully booked in August “we're talking about a broken economy.” One last chance
The Balearics will enjoy one last influx of British tourists this weekend with 1.8 million British Holiday makers expected to head overseas this weekend for the August Bank Holiday, many enjoying a 10% bonus on the exchange rate with the euro compared with last year.

In practice, numbers appear to have fluctuated. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) does not publish figures solely for the weekend, but it recorded a six percent decline in year on year in outbound holiday departures during August.

However, Spain is the most popular destination again this year, says Abta, with the Balearics continuing to be the most popular area.
But, once this Bank Holiday has passed, the season is going to come to a slow end and de Benito warned yesterday that, because of the uncertainty in the market, hotels are going to start closing up enmass in October. “The problem is that the bulk of the bookings are for June, July and August which is making the summer season shorter and shorter and this is becoming a serious problem for Majorca. “We need to be working at ways of extending the seasons with hotels remaining open until January. But, as the market stands, there is going to be a huge drop off in bookings in the middle of September and that is when the massive closure of hotels is going to begin,” she warned.

Last year, only ten hotels were open in Majorca during December and de Benito said that this winter, 45 are involved in the holidays for the aged programme, so that could help.

As the Bulletin has already reported, the British travel industry has the impression that Spain threw in the towel very early on this year with regards to promoting tourism and working with the tour operators to push sales, another one of the reasons for the poor summer because the British market continues to be Spain's most important.

The big winners in the UK have been Morocco and Tunisia this summer and now all eyes are on the winter. More flights will be operating from the UK this year but if the hotels are closed, the residential market will have to keep them flying.