JAIME Bauzá, the chairman of AVIBA, the Balearic Travel Agents Association, said yesterday that the latest tourist figures show that this year “will not be brilliant, but it will be satisfactory.” He calculated that August in the Balearics showed a five per cent increase in tourists arriving through tour operators and travel agencies and in the number of tickets sold to residents. He added that “September would be relatively acceptable.” This was a far cry from the gloomy picture painted at the start of the year.
He declined to attribute the improvement to the new government, although he did say that renewed talks between the administration and private enterprise had helped. He went on to say that a certain reactivation had been noted as far back as May, when there was a 1.5 per cent increase, and this trend has continued throughout the summer. Bauzá added that there had been a similar increase in tickets for tourists from the Balearics, thanks to a great extent to cruise ships and student trips to European capitals, as well as visits to theme parks in the Peninsula and France. He added that the people of the Balearics now tend to make short trips nearer home, rather than to distant destinations such as Bali or India, mainly as a result of terrorist attacks. It is not just the travel agents who are happy: booking levels forecast by the Spanish hotel industry for September this year, stand at 75 and 85 percent, depending if the establishment is situated inland or on the coast. Sources in the hotel sector gave prominence to the fact that this year, expectations are higher than last when figures exceeded an average of 70 percent. The optimistic prediction is made this year based on the assumption that weather conditions remain stable and that storms and heavy rainfall do not lead to last minute cancellations. These figures are an indication of how well things have been going for the summer season of 2003. According to José Guillermo Díaz Montañes, president of the Spanish Hoteliers Association, Zontur, occupancy levels this year are put at 93 percent. June this year registered a 4-point rise over the same period last year with an occupancy rate of 72 percent. It has been in July however, and above all in August, when many holiday areas principally on the coast, have touched on “full house”. And so, the Balearic Islands, particularly Minorca and Ibiza and the Canary Islands, highlighted by the success of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, have broken through to top the 90 percent occupation level, while Spanish mainland destinations such as Huelva or Cádiz have been at 100 percent. Benidorm on the Costa Blanca has also moved close to the 100 percent mark. But not only holiday destinations offering “sun, sea and sand” have proved attractive for September. Inland hotels are showing reservation figures in excess of 65 percent and certain information sources in the hotel sector are confirming that rural tourism continues to grow in popularity with progressive growth over the last three years of 14 percent. In the opinion of key hoteliers' organizations in Spain, the month of September “could be a successful climax to the summer season of 2003”. It has broken expectations and belied the forecasts made by the National Institute of Statistics which had predicted a fall of 24 percent in the level of hotel occupancy.


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