A group of Imserso holidaymakers. | Sergio Cañizares


Hoteliers in Majorca may opt out of the Imserso winter holiday programme for Spanish pensioners. The president of the association in Playa de Palma, Francisco Marín, says that local hoteliers don't see themselves being part of the scheme. Although the pensioner tourists give the resort areas some atmosphere over the winter months, the programme isn't profitable because of the costs that hotels incur. There needs to be, he insists, a rethink by the national government and an increase in the level of subsidies.

An increase of five per cent is what they would like, but even this wouldn't necessarily be sufficient compensation. Sebastián Darder of the Palmanova-Magalluf association points to the discontent over prices which are charged. They mean very little profit. "This has to change. The prices paid need to increase."

Both association presidents agree that this winter's programme has been totally different to the previous year, when there were problems surrounding the award of packages to the Imserso operators and a resultant delay to the whole programme. Some twenty hotels are involved in Imserso, mostly all of them in Playa de Palma and Calvia, but despite the better arrangements this year, the profit is proving elusive.

The aim of the Imserso programme, in addition to providing affordable, low-season holidays for senior citizens, is to provide some employment by enabling hotels to stay open. While the associations are now saying that they may pull out because of the lack of profit, they were pointing earlier in the year to the positive impact of Imserso, if only in terms of occupancy. For instance, around three weeks ago Sebastián Darder referred to the positive contribution of Imserso holidaymakers to the rise in domestic tourism that had pushed occupancy to some 80% over Easter.

The issue of profit certainly isn't confined to Majorca's hoteliers. In January, it was reported that many hoteliers in Murcia had decided to drop out of the programme. It was noted that four-star hotels could expect a fixed daily price of 21 euros for full board, with wine included. For three-star establishments, the price was lower.