The Balearic hotel industry is taking immediate action, along with Spain's five other main tourist destinations, in a desperate attempt to stop the decline in holiday sales for this winter and next summer. But while millions of pounds are being ploughed in to publicity campaigns by the central and local governments, the world's leading tour operators, such as Thomson and Airtours, gave it straight to the Spanish hotel industry yesterday. President of the International Federation of Tour Operators, Martin Brackenbury, during a visit to Spain asked hotel owners to drop their prices. Brackenbury, who just days after September 11 warned hoteliers in Palma to be extra sensitive with their handling of the fall out from the attacks and the war in Afghanistan, said yesterday that the “current unusual situation needs to be handled very carefully.” Brackenbury said that Spain has to concentrate on quality as it can not expect to win a price war with competing destinations along the north African coast because the labour costs there are much cheaper. He warned that Spanish hotel prices “have got to be attractive.” “If the prices are too high, hotels will not be able to sell their beds and in the end will have to slash their prices,” Brackenbury said. He also pointed out to hoteliers that the rates at which last year's contracts with the tour operators were set was in the wake of a record summer season, but he said that this year, contracts are having to be negotiated in the wake of September 11. It may well be Christmas but Brackenbury has not come to Spain bringing tidings of joy. Winter bookings for Spain in the UK are down by ten per cent and looking ahead to next summer, IFTO figures project a 20 per cent decline. Recent surveys have discovered that 14 per cent of Britons plan to remain in the United Kingdom next year because of the international crisis. Brackenbury also announced that two million more jobs are to go in Europe, half of which will be in the United Kingdom. Brackenbury said that the way to stop the slow down is to start launching “good promotional campaigns,” while offering attractive packages and prices. “You've got to give the British and the Germans (the two principal markets) good reasons to come to Spain,” he said. Apart from the world's fear of flying, the IFTO boss said that economic problems across Europe are making consumers extra sensitive and wary about splashing out on holidays and those who are prepared to travel do not want to spend too much. Brackenbury's solution for Spain is to follow Turkey's example, drop the prices and target the country's main markets in order to encourage people to holiday here.

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