Matas visits Minorca PRESIDENT of the Balearic Government, Jaume Matas, visited Minorca last week to meet with local politicians from Mahon, Sant Lluis and Es Castell, as well as with the president of Minorca's Island Council, Joana Barcelo. Matas committed the Balearic Government to funding part of the new sports centre planned for Bintaufa, between Es Castell, Sant Lluis and Mahon. Describing the project as a “great sports centre” Matas announced that the regional parliament would equal the Island Council's economic contribution to the project. The only condition the Balearic government will put on the project, Matas explained, is “if we are involved in this project, it must be worthwhile”, emphasising that the project should be ambitious and fully meet the needs of Minorcans. The news of Balearic support for the sports pavilion came as a welcome surprise to Minorcan politicians. Upon the announcement, Barcelo responded, “perfect, now we won't have problems in financing the project”. In meeting with Mahon's mayor, Arturo Bagur, Matas discussed the role of the Balearic government in financing the town's water and sewage plan, the possible location of “officially protected” houses within the town; and Bagur handed Matas a plan for the resort of Canutells. In Es Castell, the town's mayoress, Irene Coll, and Matas discussed the reformation of the old military barracks, Cuartel de Intendencia. Matas and Coll signed an agreement to create a Consortium for the Rehabilitation of Es Castell's Patrimony. Funded almost entirely by the Balearic government, the consortium aims to preserve and modernise the considerable historic buildings and monuments in the town. The Cuartel de Intendencia will be the first target for the Consortium, although the first stage will be a study of the building, the town hall hopes the reformed building will be used for municipal services. In Sant Lluis, the mayor Llorenc Carretero received Matas' commitment to support the town's plans for a theatre and help to seek funding from Madrid for the project. Carretero also took advantage of the meeting to mention several other projects for the town that will need Balearic level support, such as a day centre for the elderly; extension of the local sports centre; finance for resurfacing rural roads and improvements to the local school. A NEW set of figures about tourist numbers on the island, published by the Centre of Investigation and Tourist Technologies (CITTIB), reveal that the length of stay of the average visitor to Minorca dropped by 6% in 2004 compared to 2003. Despite this drop, the figures show that tourists in Minorca, with an average stay of 11.3 days, beat the Balearic island average length of stay, of 10.4 days. According to CITTIB's figures, the number of tourists that arrived on the island by aircraft increased by 1% in 2004, while tourists arriving by ferry dropped by 20% compared to the previous year. British tourists continue to be the largest market for the island. In 2004, they accounted for 54% of total visitors and British visitors climbed by a modest 1% compared to 2003. The study cites increased visitor numbers in November and December as playing a role in this increase. The number of Spanish tourists visiting the island, representing nearly a quarter of total visitors to Minorca, increased considerably, showing growth of 8% compared to 2003. German tourists increased in number by 5%. By way of contrast, the numbers of French and Italian tourists visiting Minorca declined. Visitors from smaller European markets, such as Denmark, Switzerland and Portugal all increased in number. CITTIB's report also profiles visitors to the island. According to their study, a third of British visitors are aged between 25 and 44 years, and 70% of British tourists visit the island on a package holiday. Package holidays play a less important role for Spanish visitors, only 44% visit the island on this type of holiday. From May 30 until the end of October, Ciutadella will receive 18'000 visitors from cruise ships, according to figures revealed by the travel agency, Melia Vives. Ocean Village, a British cruise ship, will begin fortnightly stops at Ciutadella from the end of May, the cruise ship will visit Minorca on route to Palma from Montecarlo. Passengers will have the chance to spend the day in the town, with smaller boats transporting them to the nautical club, as the ferry is too large to dock in Ciutadella's port. Later in the year, another British cruise ship, Hebridean Spirit will also stop at Ciutadella.

New tourism figures