In order to try and revive the Balearic tourist industry, the Balearic tourist sector was yesterday advised to drop its prices. The Chairman of tour operator Thomas Cook, Stefan Pichler, said that the Balearics' problem this year has not only been the economic situation in Europe, but the region's “domestic problems,” such as the bad image initiatives like the tourist tax have given the region in its key feeder markets. Thomas Cook, which owns JMC, bring some five million tourists to Spain each year, but it has seen the Balearics hit hardest this year with a fall in bookings of 25 per cent. Pichler pointed out that the arrival of the euro, both in the Balearics and on the mainland, has served to reduce value for money while other nonEuro zone destinations such as Turkey, Bulgaria and Croatia have managed to cash in on the back of the single currency. Hence, Pichler maintains that the Balearic tourist industry needs to lower its prices, everything in Europe is now in Euros so the price comparison is much easier to make. Pichler also believes that it is time for the bickering between the local government and the tourist sector, which has not helped the region's image either, to end. But, despite the poor results this year, Thomas Cook still believes in Spain as its top destination and advocates that the Balearic government and the Balearic tourist industry should launch a joint promotional campaign. “You've got to act, you can't sit around with your arms crossed,” he said, adding that while there are slim signs of a recovery in the Balearic market, a lot of Thomas Cook clients are booking other destinations “the tourist decides, we merely adapt to demand,” he said. Echoing very much the statements made by the chairman of the airline Spanair on Thursday, Pichler, not wishing to comment directly on the Balearic government's policies, did say that it is time to reflect “and think about the consequences of certain decisions,” a drop in tourism for example, will lead to higher unemployment. On the whole, the Thomas Cook travel group, in the wake of September 11, has experienced a 12 per cent fall in bookings in Germany and the European market in general. The company has decided to cut internal costs by 530 million euros in order to offer clients far more competitive prices. Pichler also announced in Majorca yesterday that the travel group is currently bringing its five airlines, tour operators and hotel chains all together under the Thomas Cook brand name. The German tour operator Neckermann will however maintain its corporate identity. Sources for UK tour operator JMC said in Palma this week that British holiday bookings have definitely picked up and because of the reduction in capacity, JMC is having to turn to Neckermann for extra accommodation space in certain resorts.

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