By Humphrey Carter PALMA

IT has been a busy Easter for Spain's coastal resorts, like the Balearics, with hotel occupancy at between 85 and 90 percent, the Secretary General for Tourism, Joan Mesquida, reported yesterday.

The Secretary General also announced that initial figures show that, in comparison to last year, turn over in the tourist industry was up by ten percent. “Easter was particularly good,” Mesquida proclaimed. “The government managed to meet its hotel occupancy forecasts and the country's airports handled seven percent more international flights,” the Majorcan added.

According to Mesquida, the big Easter winners were the Balearics, the Canaries, Valencia and Andalusia but rural tourism also performed well as did city breaks.

The Secretary General said that this year is going to be good for the tourist industry with both international and national tourism figures much higher than last year and the summer forecast looking extremely encouraging.

Assessing the wider picture, Mesquida said that Spain's tourism industry is recovering from the global crisis, due partly to the unrest in competing travel destinations in the Arab world.

Spain received 9 million foreign visitors in the first quarter of 2011, up 2.9 per cent from the year-earlier period

The increase was due to the economic recovery of Spain's European tourism markets, as well as the unrest in Arab countries, Mesquida said.
It had been expected that Spanish tourism would profit from the turmoil in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.
The number of tourists coming from Britain and Germany - Spain's biggest markets - dropped to 4.8 per cent to 1.8 million and by 3.7 per cent to 1.5 million, respectively, in the first quarter.

However, arrivals increased from the Netherlands, Belgium, Nordic countries and Italy.
But, the first quarter increase was not witnessed in the Balearics.
In fact, the number of foreign visitors coming to the Balearics during the first three months of this year was down by nearly 12 percent on last year by over half a million.

According to a report published by the Ministry for Tourism, Commerce and Industry, in March, 251'587 foreign holiday makers came to the Balearics, 20 percent less than last year.

What the figures clearly show is that, the lack of flights between the United Kingdom and the Balearics did have a highly negative affect during the first quarter while the Germans, who have access to flights throughout the year, tended to stay away or head to other areas of Spain such as the Canaries, Catalonia or Andalusia; regions which all experienced positive growth in tourism figures during the first quarter.

However, with the summer season just around the corner and those hotels which opened for Easter planning on staying open, the Balearics is expected to make up for the winter shortfall of half a million tourists because, according to the local government, one million more holiday makers are booked to come to the Balearics this year than last.