By Humphrey Carter
THE Euro is starting to take its toll on the Euro zone package holidays market with Spain, in particular the Balearics, paying the highest price for the European single currency. Yesterday, World Tourism Organisation experts told the Spanish tourism industry that it has to quickly start stamping its mark on the European travel industry in order to beat off stiff competition from emerging markets. However, in the short term, the biggest threat to Spain is the Euro....and Turkey.
Sean Tipton, spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents said yesterday that, while travel agent holidays for April were 13 percent up on April 2004 in the UK, Spain is down seven percent and the Balearics ten percent. “There's no need to panic, the Balearics is still the number one destination, but the short term problem is quite simply the Euro. Spain is no longer a cheap destination,” he said. “High street spending may be down, but more Britons than ever appear to be having a holiday this year and it would appear that Turkey is the big growth market this year,” he added. UK bookings to Turkey during the first four months of the year are 44 percent up on last year.
It is not just the British Turkey is attracting. According to the WTO, Turkey is enjoying an overall 25 percent increase in holiday sales from the Euro zone. Bulgaria is also proving attractive to Britons and Tipton said: “Spanish hotels in particular saw the potential growth market over there and are building new hotels offering top quality services at very low prices. Spain and the Balearics are finding it hard to compete. “The short term problem is the Euro, the long term problem is going to be competition from new destinations with new hotels, infrastructure and cheaper prices,” Tipton added. “Obviously, the figures we get only correspond to travel agent sales, they do not take the residential and independent travel sectors into account. Overall, the number of British visitors to the Balearics was down 3.5 percent last year,” he said. Inflation in the Balearics has run away with itself since the dawn of the Euro and Tipton says that this year the coin appears to have finally dropped and Britons no longer consider Spain a cheap sunshine holiday spot. “Once a destination gets such a reputation it is very hard to shake off. “A recent Euro-zone report has also unveiled a startling increase in prices in Greece. A coffee can now cost as much as three euros. While Italy, always considered an expensive destination, is one of the cheapest,” he explained. The director of market studies and promotion for the World Travel Organisation, Augusto Huéscar, said yesterday that Spain has to start diversifying and stamping its mark as a global leader in the tourism market. He praised the work being done by Andalucia to quickly realign itself with the changing market, but singled out Turkey as an example of how to boost tourism in a relatively short period. According to Huéscar Spanish destinations have to offer new products and facilities, consolidate bread and butter markets, work on expanding business and conference tourism while providing maximum value for money. “Spain is following the right road, but it has to show that it means what it says.”

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