The Balearic tourist industry is not facing a crisis because of the slump in bookings, especially in Germany, according to the Tourism Minister Celesti Alomar who also says that the drop in bookings “is not as big” as initially thought. Looking on the bright side of a fall in the German market of around 15 per cent, Alomar said the industry “should get used to the situation” as the figures match the 1997 and 1998 season which the hoteliers still described as “excellent.” The Ministry for Tourism's first step towards reviving bookings and filling the gap will be to try and regenerate the Spanish market and try to attract the Scandinavian, French, Italian and Portuguese markets. Alomar is also convinced that the British market will help compensate significantly for the shortfall in German bookings. But last week the Association of British Travel Agents, ABTA, said that while the leading tour operators have reported a slow start to sales this summer, the Balearics is also facing serious competition from Eastern Mediterranean destinations. The independent travel agents in the United Kingdom have also noticed that customers are booking later than usual this year - but the independents see the delay in bookings as good news. According to Advantage Travel Centres, the slow start to the summer market means that there is a great deal of capacity left to sell and the independent travel agents' main strength is in the late market. Whether the Balearics will benefit from the late booking surge remains to be seen. It appears that more and more Britons are after short breaks and more customers are opting for tailor-making their holidays for total flexibility. And two of the main qualities customers are looking for in a holiday is good service and a wide choice. The independent travel agents are doing extremely well with preferred specialist operators and in some cases increases in volume of 75 per cent in some markets when compared to last year. What will be worrying for Alomar is that the “developing” destinations, as he referred to them last week, such as Turkey and Greece in particular, are doing “particularly well.”

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