Late bookers to the Balearics may be disappointed this summer. | R.I.

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The Association of British Travel Agents, ABTA, today advised Britons planning on coming to Spain on holiday this year to book now. The Bulletin has been closely monitoring the huge early surge in demand for holidays in Spain, in particular the Balearics, since long before Christmas, which is unusual in itself and what first set alarm bells ringing in the travel industry.

Now, amidst fears that Spain could be sold out by the end of this month, ABTA today tried to ease people’s fears and calm the stampede for holidays. The association is advising holidaymakers to book their summer holidays early this year after new figures show a 6% year-on-year increase in bookings for overseas summer holidays, with substantial increases for Spain (27%) and Portugal (32%) and also with Cyprus (14%) and Malta (15%) selling well. Bookings to Greece are at similar levels to 2015 as are those to the USA. Similar booking patterns are being reported by travel trade associations in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, which will result in increased demand and competition for accommodation, emphasising just how important it is to book early this year.

The growth in popularity of the western Mediterranean is being driven partly by a drop in business to traditionally popular destinations like Tunisia and Egypt, following terrorist incidents and changes to Foreign Office travel advice. More customers also appear to be looking for the wider choice and good value on offer to early bookers. Mediterranean Eurozone countries have responded to local economic problems by lowering prices in bars and restaurants and the pound is still at a relatively high level, meaning that these destinations offer extremely good value for money.

Another factor behind this growth is the continuing readjustment in the overseas holiday market following the significant falls seen in 2008 and 2009 after the financial crisis and credit crunch, when overall UK passenger numbers fell by 15%. In 2015, UK airlines reported that passenger numbers had returned to pre-credit crunch levels.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA's chief executive said: “The significant increase in summer holiday bookings to western Mediterranean destinations is also being mirrored in other northern European markets so it makes it more important than ever that customers  book early to obtain the best value and ensure they get the holiday of their choice.”