THE number of tourists from the United Kingdom coming to the Balearics this year will probably be much the same as last, although there could possibly be a slight upturn, Barry Moxley, the President of the British Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association (STA/ITO), said yesterday on Majorca.

Moxley who presides over an association specialising in quality tourism, was optimistic about the current tourist season, largely because of the recovery of the UK economy and that of the Pound Sterling against the Euro.

STA/ITO, which brings a million tourists to the Balearics every year, is holding its annual conference on Majorca attended by some 150 travel agents and tour operators.

The event was opened yesterday in Porto Petro by the Balearic Minister for Tourism and Employment, Joana Barcelo, who apart from Moxley, was accompanied by Ignacio Vasallo, the Director of the Turespaña Spanish Tourist Board in London, and the Director of the Majorcan Tourism Foundation, Mar Suau.

Vasallo said yesterday that at the end of March this year, the number of seats block-booked on flights to the Balearics this season were in the region of 2.9 million, almost the same as in 2009.

Vasallo said that so far this year, with the height of the tourist season still to come, half a million of them had already been sold to holidaymakers wanting to come to Majorca.

He acknowledged, however, that in terms of the Balearics, the year “had got off to a very bad start.” But with the affairs of the British having taken a turn for the better, the Director said, forecasts are that people from the United Kingdom are going to be turning up in the same numbers as they did in 2009.

STA/ITO, said Moxley, is the most important association of independent British tour operators and is keen to meet the requirements of high-spending tourists who are “looking for” something other than a sun, sea and sand holiday.

Their tastes, he said, might straddle the world of sports, Balearic culture, gastronomy and environmental appreciation.
Moxley said that the Balearics were considered as a “handy” destination for the British as the Islands were a mere two hours away from many southern British airports.

Vasallo said that the British press is highlighting the fact that because of the improved performance of the Pound against the Euro, complementary tourist services such as bars, cafés and restaurants are offering a good quality/price ratio for those who have chosen not to go down the “all-inclusive” route where accommodation, food and drink is all paid for in advance. He added that British tour operators were “very pleased” with the forecasts because for the first time, the tourist offer of the Balearics is being seen as “cheaper” than that provided by Turkey, a country outside the Euro zone.

Vasallo believed that because sales in the British market were going so well, it was likely that airlines servicing the routes between the United Kingdom and the Balearics would make applications for more take-off and landing “slots” to ferry increasing numbers of customers.