The chairman of the International Federation of Tour Operators, Martin Brackenbury, flew in to Palma yesterday to talk the Balearic hotel federations through the latest UK package holiday booking figures “I don't like being the barer of bad news” he told the Bulletin last night. IFTO Secretary General, Alan Flook, explained that the Balearics is still the number one summer destination in the UK “but by just 0.1 per cent, its market share is now 19.5%, compared to last year's 25% and Greece accounts for 19.4%.” Just hours after JMC-Thomas Cook's managing director, Manny Fontenla, announced that the tour operator's summer bookings for the Balearics will be down by at least 15 per cent in comparison to last year, Flook explained that the “big four” UK tour operators have cut back capacity across the board: Thomson by 10%, Airtours by 14%, Thomas Cook and First Choice by 20%. He also revealed that independent research in the UK has established that 23 per cent of people who went on holiday last year, will be staying in the UK this year. “That figure will probably shrink, but a significant number will still stay at home,” Flook said. Brackenbury, who praised the high level of professionalism in the Balearic hotel sector, adding that the hoteliers and the tour operators have a good relationship and are working closely together to reduce the negative impact on the market, said that the two main reasons for the decline in the UK holiday market in general is a weakening economy and that September 11 is still having an effect, especially on families. It is the family package holiday market which is suffering most -- the Balearics' life line. “We don't know the German figures yet, but they could be a good deal worse,” Brackenbury said. It was revealed last night that the German market is down by 40 per cent. “There's been a high level of borrowing in the UK and Germany, in fact we noticed holiday sales starting to slow in the UK prior to September 11,” he said, adding that the British economy is not as buoyant as it would seem and a tourist tax will not help attract visitors with the economies continuing to weaken. Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar, said yesterday that tourism figures for 2002 would end up down 1 to 2 per cent with spending up by 1 per cent. “I would be very surprised if it ends like that,” Brackenbury said. The simple fact is that as tour operators have reduced capacity across the board by 15 per cent and that there are 1.5 million less summer package holidays on sale, UK tourism will be unable to match last year. Flook said that even if the 28 per cent drop in bookings does pick up “the Balearics will still be looking at a double digit drop in British tourists this summer.” Brackenbury admitted that the situation could be worse “together with the hoteliers we've got through these situations in the past, but we've got to be cautious.” Over the next two weeks the tour operators will start to finalise on their airline contracts, although they do have a 70-day cut off clause, but Brackenbury said that some may decide to opt for night only flights to start.

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