STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
THE outlook for the tourist industry in Spain this year is “positive but complex” National Tourist Board Director Alvaro Blanco said yesterday, confirming that although reservations from the German key client market are growing and bookings from the United Kingdom are recovering, many visitors will be those who would otherwise have gone to Egypt and Tunisia. “The bookings situation looks good,” said Blanco speaking at a tourism summit in Palma, “but we've actually got to keep working at ensuring that Spain gives a quality service.” He said that on the surface of things, the country seems to have been able to take advantage of what appears to be a golden opportunity with political tensions in Egypt and Tunisia driving would-be tourists north to Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands. “The crises that are emerging in North Africa are not providing us with the free windfall that some would suppose,” cautioned Blanco. “The visitors that come to Spain who would otherwise have gone to Egypt or Tunisia have simply been lent to us, and the hard work will be in convincing them to come back again.” However, he said, speaking at a conference attended by Spanish Tourism Board representatives from offices around Europe, there is general agreement that regardless of the knock-on effects of the North African conflict, reservations for this coming season as they stand at this time of year, are particularly good.

Bookings for the Canary Islands from the British market, said Blanco are up by 20 percent and by 13 percent in the Balearic Islands.
Blanco claimed that all the main client markets favouring Spain as a holiday destination are “fine” and returning to “relative normality”. He said that business appeared to be flowing in the same way as it had prior to 2008 although the Spanish Tourist Board acknowledged that such high volume growth was not sustainable.

High booking levels, above all in the German market, have not only recovered the losses of the past few years but are also showing signs of increasing considerably. There is, confirmed Blanco, a growth of 12 percent across the whole of the country in comparison to reservations for 2010, a figure which climbs to 21 percent in the case of the Balearics - a long-time favourite holiday destination for the Germans.

Manuel Butler, Manager of the Spanish Tourist Board Office in Berlin, said that the German demand for holidays in Spain is exceeding levels registered in 2008, but conceded that Spain will be benefiting this year from the North African crisis.

Butler sounded a warning note however, that the high booking levels registered even by the end of December were due to the tour operators having made their purchases and reservations earlier than usual. As such, he agreed with Blanco by alleging that the high volume growth in bookings could not possibly be sustained right the way through what was left of the reservation period.

Butler's counterpart in London, Ignacio Vasallo, insisted that reservations for holidays in Spain from the British market were now better than they had been at the same time last year prior to the outbreak of political tensions in North Africa. This was in part, he said, thanks to taxes imposed by the British government on travel to the most distant destinations. Those places which have benefited most from the taxes (a 280 pound levy on going to Egypt and 48 pounds to go to Spain) and from the recommendations of the British government not to holiday in certain locations, are Spain, and above all the Balearic Islands.