STAFF REPORTER
MADRID/PALMA

MAJORCA'S Sol Melia hotel chain President, Gabriel Escarrer forecast yesterday that the tourist industry would begin to recovery from the recession at the end of this year.

Speaking after attending a shareholders' meeting in Palma, Escarrer said that the industry had managed to survive the deepest part of the crisis during the second half of 2009, and that in terms of this summer's tourist season, demand in Spain “had risen slightly”.

Escarrer went one stage further by saying that not only had the Sol Melia group steered its way through the recession, but that it had emerged a more efficient and “consolidated” company.

He said that 2010 “hasn't begun badly at all” and said that prices were remaining stable in Spain where the tourist sector has been at odds because of the excess of holiday offers and falling demand.

The Sol Melia group, said Escarrer, will be making a total investment of 44 million euros this year, most of which will be set aside for maintenance and modernisation of already-existing infrastructure.

Looking to the future, the company, said Escarrer will be expanding in markets where “opportunities can be maximised.” Nearly 80 percent of the 26 new hotels that the group have planned so far will be contract managed under a franchise system.

Escarrer said that new openings will be in the main European capitals as well as in places where the Sol Melia group is already conducting competitive business such as Mexico, Columbia and Brazil. As well as expanding into Asia, Sol Melia are also trying to get a foothold in the United States.

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