By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
LYING in the sun on a Balearic beach may seem a distant memory with the snow capped mountains looking down on Majorca today, but for thousands of Britons it is a dream they intend to make come true next summer with the UK holiday market having noticed a significant turn around in demand for holidays in the Balearics and Spain for next summer.

At the end of this summer, bookings for the Balearics were already up by 20 percent, compared to last year, and the trend is continuing to remain steady while the sale of holidays to mainland destinations is currently up by around eight and nine percent.

Hugh Morgan, the Managing Director Tour Operations for the Monarch Travel Group, said yesterday that there is certainly “no room for complaints” about the Balearic and Spanish market for the coming year and that there are grounds for optimism that there could be a significant U-turn in the market with a swing back to traditional Spanish and Balearic resorts.

The big test, however, is going to come next month. “To be honest, it's a little hard to tell how the market is going as we head into Christmas. “Our Gatwick and Manchester flights to Majorca are doing well, which we are pleased about with an average load factor of 84 percent so that's given us a major boost and means we will certainly continue the winter programme. “But, it's been hard work selling the seats and it was slow to start. We had to really push it with blanket advertising in London for example.” he added.

But, the local tourism authorities should be grateful for the tour operator's commitment to Majorca this winter and there is still time for them to make an extra effort to attract winter tourists to the island.

Morgan said that destinations like Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt are doing well, despite the recent shark incidents. “There are still vacancies, which is unusual, normally the place is full for Christmas, but all the publicity over the sharks just reminded people how good the weather is down there this time of year, so it may have a reverse effect and boost bookings,” he said. “But across the board, from Monarch's point of view, we're trading well and things are certainly looking up for Spain and the Balearics for next year,” he added.

CRUNCH TIME “January is going to be the crunch time for all destinations. That's when we do most of our summer business, so come the end of next month, we'll have a much clearer idea of exactly how good the summer's going to be down in the Balearics and elsewhere in Spain,” he stressed. “We're actually going to be celebrating out 50th anniversary all next year and making a major effort to push Cosmos. “One thing all of the main tour operators have noticed is that customers are returning to reliable outfits where they know their money is safe. “We are in fact the only independent tour operators which has lasted the test of time and intend to continue for another 50 years, but the culmination of the demise of the small operators over the past few years, the independent travellers getting caught stranded by volcanic ash clouds and strikes by French and Spanish air traffic controllers has also made many people think twice about DIY holidays. “This year so many travellers have realised that by having booked on line via a web portal, they've ended up with no cover in the event of postponed or cancelled flights and have been forced to foot the bill themselves. “Those who had booked with operators like ourselves on the other hand, were accommodated, fed and watered throughout the chaos and placed on the next available flight home at no extra cost, so I think there's definitely going to be a change in booking habits again with people opting for package holidays or at least booking with reputable operators which offer guarantees,” Morgan said yesterday. “The recent air traffic controllers strike in Spain was not good news for the country but it is good to hear that they're considering extending the state of emergency to ensure there are no further problems over the festive season. “Considering there are only 2'500 of them (air traffic controllers) they should not prove too difficult to handle,” he added.

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