LOCAL minister for tourism Joan Flaquer, right, in London yesterday.

THE Balearic government yesterday dismissed predictions of a sharp drop in bookings by British holidaymakers to the Balearics this summer, in contrast to the socialists, who expressed their “concern” regarding the figures. Figures which were being bandied about at the World Travel Market in London indicated a drop of 34 percent in British visitors next summer, and 39 percent this winter. But Popular Party spokesman Joan Huguet pointed out that the true extent of a drop in bookings, if there is one, could only be seen clearly when the campaigns are over. He added that he was confident that demand would pick up.
His comments were echoed by Balearic tourism minister Joan Flaquer who is attending the travel fair at the moment.
But former Balearic leader Francesc Antich, secretary general of the Balearic socialists, said that the situation was “worrying.” He reminded the government that while tourism promotion is important, it is also essential to work on aspects such as quality or the excellence of the product which, he felt, were being neglected. He added that everything that is being done at the moment is “contrary to quality” pointing to the increase in the all inclusive holidays or the reduction in hotel prices to fill beds. This is all converting the Balearics into “a second-class destination,” he said, adding that it was necessary to hold a debate on the future of the sector. Former tourist minister Celestí Alomar agreed, and said that the Balearics had to give “an image of quality” instead of one of being a “cheap destination,” with requests to lower prices. Pere Sampol, the Majorcan Socialist Party spokesman, said that prices were being reduced and more tourists were coming but they had a lower spending power. He blamed what he called the Popular Party's “negative campaigns” alleging that tourism had been “put into the hands of foreign tour operators.” He also joked about the drop coinciding with the repeal of the controversial tourist tax. “There can be no other explanation. With the tax, the number of British visitors rose. If it goes down now, perhaps the government should consider reintroducing it,” he said. Today, Balearic leader Jaume Matas is due to sign an agreement with Michael Douglas concerning promotion and the sale of the actor's Costa Nord cultural centre.


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