By Humphrey Carter

BRITONS are turning their backs on the Balearics and Spain in favour of Turkey this year but, despite reports in the British media yesterday, Turkey has by no means overtaken Spain as Britain's number one holiday destination this summer.

Sean Tipton, spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents, said that the Co-op's analysis of holiday bookings has been based on the sale of package holidays through their travel shops and is not the result of an overall market study. “In 2006, 12.5 million Britons went on holiday to Spain compared to the one million which went to Turkey. I don't thank Turkey's managed to overturn those figures in just two years,” said Tipton.

But, the Balearics can not rest on its laurels and Tipton explained that there are a number of very important factors in play with regards to destinations such as Turkey and Egypt. “Turkey has been enjoying constant growth in the British holiday market over recent years and this year, the strength of the Euro against Sterling is making non-euro zone destinations increasingly attractive because they are offering good value for money. “The Spanish Tourist Board, Turespaña, was right in what it said on Monday about tourists not giving up on Spain but, as they said, people may shorten the length of their holiday and spend less in Spain this year. “Package holiday sales to Spain are down, while they are up to Turkey. However, what the Co-op's survey does not take into account is the fact that an increasing number of Britons are making their own holiday arrangements in Spain. “More people are traveling independently and more Britons either have a holiday home and time share or are using friend's holiday homes.
Holiday home rentals have risen by 15 percent for this summer, for example. “With regards to Spain, Britain's travel habits have changed significantly but certainly do not indicate any kind of decline,” Tipton told the Bulletin yesterday. “So, there are a lot of factors to take into account when analysing the travel industry this year,” he added.
However, Spain is now a mature holiday destination and has quite probably peaked in its key feeder markets like Britain and Germany.
As the Balearic Minister for Tourism Francesc Buils said last month, “Majorca is part of Britain's fabric” and suggested that Britons will always come to Majorca.

But, Tipton agreed that neither the Balearics nor Spain can afford to take Britain or any of its main markets for granted.
Competition from emerging destinations in the eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East is getting tougher by the year as they invest heavily in tourism and new attractions, never mind the economic advantages of travelling outside the Euro zone. Tipton said that Spain's holiday market does not have much potential for further growth and should therefore be looking to consolidate the market it has, work hard to keep hold of its millions of loyal visitors and continue investing in up market, quality tourism.

According to the Co-op's market survey, the average selling price of a holiday to Turkey is as much as 108 pounds cheaper than to Majorca - 357 pounds compared to 465.

The Co-op also claim that bookings for Majorca are down by 13 percent and their research has also discovered that the Euro is not entirely to blame. Since the merger of tour operators Thomas Cook and MyTravel and Thomson with First Choice, the main operators have reduced supply to short-haul western Mediterranean destinations like Spain and the Balearics by between 12 percent and 23 percent causing a shortage of availability as well.

But, the majority of British travel agents maintain Spain remains the number one destination despite the C-op's claims.


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