The Balearics registered the largest fall in tourism of any province in Spain in the first quarter of this year according to figures released yesterday. The announcement came yesterday as the Balearic Minister for tourism, Celesti Alomar, confirmed that the number of German visitors to the Balearics this year would fall by up to 10 percent. The figures announced yesterday by the Research Department of the Sa Nostra bank said that tourism to the islands fell by 15 percent from January to March. There was a 23 percent drop in German visitors but there was some good news with a 2.3 percent increase in British tourism in the first three months. Minister for tourism Celesti Alomar along with Balearic leader Francesc Antich was in Berlin yesterday for the opening of a new Balearic tourism office. These offices have been set-up across Germany in an effort to persuade Germans to return to the Balearics. But the Balearics faces a hard fight. The islands are no longer popular with the Germans, thanks to high prices and the tourist tax, according to the travel industry. Antich and Alomar attempted to put a brave face on the situation yesterday suggesting that money from the tax would be used to improve holiday resorts and that the Balearics would be a better place as long as tourists showed some solidarity. The decline in German tourism is expected to severely hit the local economy. Also, there is concern over the state of the British market. Despite a small increase in the first three months of the year tourism from Britain fell in May by six percent and there are fears that it could do likewise again this month. Some hotels in resorts popular with British tourists are reporting occupancy levels of as little as 60 percent. The travel industry says that now is a make or break time for the Balearics as thousands of people have delayed booking their holiday until after the World Cup. But resorts in Greece and Turkey have both launched special offers and there is concern that the Balearics may lose out. British travel agents say that they are having great problems in selling the Balearics. The recent general strike and the car bombs on the mainland has done little to help the image of Spain in Britain. Also, the memory of last year's coach driver's strike is still fresh in everyone's mind. The number of German tourists coming to the Balearics fell last year but their fall was counterbalanced by an increase in British tourism. But this state of affairs will not occur again as British tour operators trimmed back their programmes in the Balearics after the September 11 attacks. British tour operators expect a fall in British tourism to the Balearics of anything up to 10 percent this year. One thing for sure the decade of tourism growth in the Balearics is rapidly coming to an end and this summer could be one of the first years to see a major reduction in tourism.

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