Pensiors at the airport.

Sales of holiday packages to Spanish senior citizens have outstripped anticipated forecasts. Over the period from October until the end of April, almost 340,000 holidaymakers are expected, meaning that all currently available places will sell out.

There are two suppliers of these holidays. The state-sponsored Imserso consortium Mundiplan is one; the other consortium is Mundosenior. The former has 237,000 hotel places available over the period; it is therefore the bigger supplier of the two. Representatives of Mundiplan say that they are very satisfied with the sales. In the first week - the packages went on sale last Thursday - 80% were reserved. This sales performance is significantly better than last year.

Mundosenior, with lower availability, is indicating that its 100,000 places have all gone. Both consortiums may well look to increase availability, but this would depend on beds and flights being available. Integrated into the consortiums are airlines - Iberia in the case of Mundiplan and Air Europa (via its parent Globalia) for Mundosenior. The number of hotels in the whole of the Balearics which participate in these package holidays is sixty; 80% of them are in Majorca, primarily in Playa de Palma and Calvia resorts, e.g. Palmamova.

The president of the Balearic travel agencies, Antoni Abrines, says that there is more demand than ever and that the situation could not be more positive.

In general terms, the holidays do provide a boost to businesses other than just hotels. Transport operators are a particular beneficiary, and Alsa is a member of the Mundiplan consortium. While restaurants, bar and shops can gain some welcome business, there is a general feeling that the Spanish pensioner market is not a high-spending one. Hoteliers have not always been persuaded to participate because of low levels of profit that are guaranteed to them by the consortiums.

* From a travel agency perspective, there is a rather less positive view than that which is being portrayed here. One issue is the commissions. The agencies want to be able to receive normal commissions from the sale of packages. With the senior citizens packages they make only twelve euros from a package. A normal commission is around 16% of the value.

On top of this is the fact that when the packages go on sale, agencies have to devote all their time to the sale of these low commission packages to the potential detriment of others. Moreover, the packages don't go on sale on the same day in all regions. Agencies want there to be equality in the conditions of sale.