By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE Balearics is now going to launch a major damage limitation exercise in the UK and Germany to limit the negative affects of the week-long threat of a three-day strike by air traffic controllers.

Hoteliers and tour operators have already reported cancellations and a dip in sales because of the uncertainty caused by the week of negotiations and news of the threat of industrial action making headline news across Europe, in particular in the UK and Germany, Spain and the Balearics' most important clients.

For the Balearics, the air traffic controllers dispute with the Spanish airport authority could not have come at a worse time, just days after the Balearic Minister for Tourism unveiled a 1.5 million euro blanket media campaign in the UK to recuperate the 130'000 lost British holiday makers this year.

But, on the flip side, that campaign, if used wisely could prove vital in ensuring the UK market that there will be no strike, this month at least, and that the Balearics is open for business as usual.

Sources for Monarch tour operators told the Bulletin that their new three flights per week from Gatwick are all full and they had not noticed any adverse affects on trade by the strike threat.

However, some other tour operators have reported a tendency for late bookers to have shun away from the Balearics and Spain over the past ten days with the strike threat looming.

Hoteliers on the island have also reported cancellations and have begun slashing their price by as much as between 40 and 60 percent in a bid to make up lost business over the remaining few months of the summer season.

Majorcan hotel chains are also launching a major offensive to attract holiday makers from the mainland with tempting offers. But, with the UK market being such a late booking one this year, the Balearics should emerge relatively unharmed by the strike threat because thousands of Britons still have not booked their holidays for the end of August and the beginning of September before the end of the school holidays. “The union understands the concerns of the tourism sector and passengers,” air traffic controllers' USCA spokesman Cesar Cabo told reporters. “We would have liked the decision to be definitive and not just for the month of August,” said Juan Ignacio Lema, chairman of AENA, in a statement.
However, he said AENA was pleased with the decision and would resume talks with USCA on Wednesday with the aim of reaching an agreement “as soon as possible”.

Industrial action would have provoked an independent arbitration process, something the controllers were keen to avoid as they feared it would have lead to an unfavourable ruling against them.

However, the message is that air traffic controllers will not go on strike “this month”.
A concrete deal has still to be negotiated between USCA and AENA and strike action in the future had not been ruled out all together.

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