I first met Maria Frontera at the World Travel Market in London last year. At the time it was the best kept secret in the local travel industry that she would soon be named president of the Majorca Hoteliers Federation. She was appointed to her new post at the start of this year having been president of the Soller Hotel Association. Her experience in the industry is second to none; she has worked in the family hotel in Soller for many years and knows the tourist industry inside out. She jokes that she is a product of the tourist industry, her mother was a Danish tour guide on the island who married her father who was a hotelier. And now she presides over the most important business federation on the island. Some would say that the hoteliers are the Majorcan tourist industry, a slight exaggeration but it is a very powerful and influential body.
I met Maria at the offices of the federation in Palma, on the calle Aragon, a long way from the resorts which are key to the federation but with scenic views over the Easter fair which has been set up nearby. It is quite apt really, because we will soon be embarking on the roller-coaster ride of yet another holiday season. Maria Frontera is adamant that we must always be positive about Majorca; nothing negative. And of course she is right because Majorca is facing stiff competition this year from resorts in the eastern Mediterranean. "These destinations are recovering and of course they are getting help from their governments," she says. As a result no one is too sure how the season will evolve in Majorca. But Maria Frontera has full faith in the product - "Majorca is such a fantastic place" - and also in her membership: "Hoteliers have spent large amounts of money upgrading their establishments and these days 60 per cent of local hotels are in the four or five-star category."
The tourist tax is a thorny issue for the hoteliers. They are opposed to it and have come out openly against plans to double the rate of it for this summer because they feel they will lose their competitive edge especially when they are facing serious competition from other holiday destinations. They are also concerned how the money from the tourist tax will be spent. Initially it was earmarked for improving holiday resorts and helping repair the footprint left by tourism on some parts of the island, but now there is talk of it being used in other areas away from tourism. Maria doesn't want to get into a war of words with the Balearic government over the tourist tax, her membership have made their opinions on the levy very clear, now they just want to get on with the holiday season. But it is a tricky time; no one doubts that Majorca will have a good season, what no one knows at the moment is how good it will be. There is concern about Brexit and the fall in the value of sterling. "This is a state of affairs we are watching carefully," she says.
"The British tourist market is vital for us." She also hopes that the island has seen an end to the false insurance claims which were allegedly being made by British tourists. "This was terrible for us. I hope we have turned the corner. As you know, a criminal investigation is ongoing. We have been working closely with the British government and the British travel industry on this issue. For hoteliers it was a nightmare, it cost hotels many hundreds of thousands of euros."
The hoteliers have always been seen as one of the driving forces behind the need to crackdown on the illegal holiday rentals market. The president of the hoteliers federation said she understands that some tourists don't want to stay in hotels. At the same time, she believes that homes and apartments which were being rented out needed to meet the necessary quality and safety requirements. And there is also the issue of security. Under Spain's new anti-terrorism laws the security services need to know who is staying where and when.
"As hoteliers we have always provided this information to the security services," she said. But if homes are being rented out illegally, then there is an important security issue.
Two of the biggest complaints the Bulletin receives from its readership concern the impact of all-inclusive package holidays on the bar and restaurant trade and the call for a longer holiday season.
"I would say that all-inclusive packages are in decline. They are still available but their popularity has diminished." Regarding a longer holiday season, Frontera believes that the island can achieve this goal if everyone works together. "We need to change our attitudes. There is little point in a hotel opening during low season if the bars and restaurants next door are closed. In some areas even the tourist information offices are closed down."
Maria Frontera wants Majorca to give out the right message. "Everything positive," she said. The right message is that "this is a fantastic island with a first-class tourist industry". And on this point she is spot on.
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