By Humphrey Carter PALMA

THE former President of Abta, the Association of British Travel Agents, Justin Fleming, told the Bulletin yesterday that “Majorca will always be at the forefront of tourism but it will have its ups and downs as trends change in the market.” Fleming, who was head of Abta for three years until stepping down at the end of April last year, has enjoyed an extremely long professional and personal relationship with the island and for that reason, he will be celebrating his 60th birthday in Majorca in style with guests coming from as far afield as Australia and New York.

Fleming explained yesterday that his mother lived in Son Rapinya for a while during the 1930's but was evacuated by the Royal Navy when the Spanish Civil War broke out. “She ended up in a boarding school in Richmond, Yorkshire,” he added.
However, with Fleming eventually moving into the travel industry he had a very close business relationship with the island during the 70's and 80's as the MD and Chairman of Panorama, which after 30 years he sold to MyTravel in 1998, and still participates as a share holder and Non-Executive Director of the luxury British tour operator Classic Collection Holidays. “We also owned a house in Son Sardina until about two years ago and used to spend two to three months a year out there so yes, you could say the island was my second home and I obviously have lots of close friends on the island, many of whom have been invited to the birthday celebrations which are going to last three days.

The 1920's theme party is going to be at the Hotel Son Julia tomorrow night, after a day out on a catamaran. Sunday will feature go-karting before dinner at Puro Beach and lunch will be at Read's Hotel on Monday. “It was my sister who suggested the 1920's theme over Christmas in Australia and obviously, I chose Majorca because of my relationship with the island,” Fleming explained. And, with regards to the problems the island's tourism industry is facing Fleming appears to be optimistic about the future. “Sadly, the Balearics have been hit by a series of external factors beyond its control. “The winter snow, the collapse of the pound, the global recession, the ash cloud. “We also have a big programme in Madeira so we were also hit by the drastic mud slides. “This certainly is a tough time for the industry, the toughest since the first Gulf War and I don't see things improving much for a year of even 18 months,” Fleming admitted.

That said, he said that Classic Collection's bookings are doing reasonably well. “But, the budget has not done much to stimulate holiday sales, the doubts over the government's stance on the unpopular Air Passenger Duty is not helping and, of course, it is still a very price sensitive market. Although, the Pound is gaining in strength against the euro and will continue. “People travelling to the euro zone now are 15 percent richer than they were last summer,” he said. “Majorca need not be despondent. Things will turn around. “It should be listening to the major tour operators, if the market, the clients want more all inclusive, so give it to them unless you'll have no one coming. “However, at the same time, the culture of travel has changed and it could lead to the infrastructure of resorts changing too with more all inclusives which will lead to the loss of in resort businesses. “But, it's a market trend and it will change as will the popularity of Turkey and Greece and probably within the next 18 months as the Pound continues to gain and people tire of all inclusives and prefer to get out and about, explore the destinations they visit and sample the local bars and restaurants. “Majorca is a jewel. It's got everything and everyone in Britain knows it and, more importantly it has the flights unlike Egypt, Turkey and Greece,” Fleming underlined. “The only area which Majorca needs to be careful is out of hotel pricing. “Restaurants and bars are expensive. “No one is going to pay 10 euros for a gin and tonic, that's 10 pounds and if restaurants are not doing much business at 70 euros a head, then reduce the prices, they'll attract more business. “With the Internet, people are sourcing their holidays and destinations much more before booking and they are able to compare prices before making a final decision. “Our clients spend andaverage of 1'300 pounds booking their holidays with us, so it's not as if they have not got any money. “What they want though is value for money and that is why, with such a price sensitive market and people on tight budgets, that is what is currently making all inclusive holidays more popular, but it will not last,” Fleming said before flying out to Majorca.