Last month's Palma airport figures showed a slight increase in the number of British holidaymakers, but at the end of this month, the figures should show a marked rise in the number of visitors from the UK. Travel agents in the UK have been reporting a huge surge in last minute summer bookings, one leading high street chain has experienced a 40 per cent rise in holiday sales while the market in general is up by 20 per cent. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said yesterday that their debit control system has registered a 20 per cent increase in travel agents' turn over and that translates into at least a 20 per cent rise in summer holiday sales. The back log of unsold holidays at the start of June has all but disappeared and while there are still some good offers to be had, holiday prices have returned to normal for this time of year. Good news for the UK tour operators and good news for the Mediterranean resorts. ABTA said that Spain and the Balearics are still Britain's number one destination, but Greece and Turkey have seen bookings increase, reducing Spain's dominance of the UK market. The late surge in holiday sales in the UK does not mean however that the UK market will compensate for the crash in German summer holiday sales. UK tour operators reduced capacity in the Balearics by around 18 per cent ahead of the start of the summer, but leading holiday companies are confident that by the end of the summer, UK holidays sales will be just six per cent less than last year. Mytravel (Airtours) expects to end the summer with a four to five per cent drop in bookings and both Thomas Cook and Thomson (TUI) are much more optimistic about how the summer if now panning out. But for TUI and Neckermann, which owns Thomas Cook, the German market is showing little signs of recuperating forcing some operators to start reducing their flight programmes. Germans summer bookings for the Balearics are still down by as much as 15 to 18 per cent on last year.

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