Balearic residents are paying well over the odds for inter-island flights. Compared to ticket prices in the Canaries, island hoppers in the Balearics are having to pay as much as 50 per cent more. The findings of a study carried out into the quality and potential of inter-island transport in the Balearics have caused a great deal of concern. The Balearics is looking to introduce its own transport plan early next year and the local authorities are even more determined to see the Balearic plan in place as soon as possible to rectify the huge discrepencies in flight and ferry prices. Only last month, the Balearic government had its appeal to have the 33 per cent resident discount increased to 50 per cent on domestic transport knocked back by Madrid. The government also wants to bring the Balearic islands closer together both socially and economically and in order to do so, the insular transport model has to take into account two criteria, the environment and competitiveness. It was during the initial stages of this study that it became clear that Balearic residents are paying half as much again than residents in the Canaries for similar inter-island flights services. What is more, while the population of the Canaries is twice that of the Balearics, here we have three times as many hotel rooms thus demand for island hoppers is potentially much higher than in the Canaries. Balearic residents are also apparently paying through the nose for ferry tickets - although demand is very similar to that in the Canaries. According to the Ministry for Public Works, in the year 2000, 300'000 people travelled between the islands by ferry, while over one million passengers used the island hoppers. Minorca accounts for the largest number of island hoppers while 18 per cent of all air passengers in Palma and Ibiza are inter-island passengers and at times, especially in the early morning, the island hoppers services are completely saturated, while most ferries are carrying just a 25 per cent passenger load. The study has concluded that the inter-island air travel industry has huge potential both in the resident and tourist markets and one of the aims of the Balearic transport plan will be to boost island hopping - by making it more efficient, effective and of course cheaper. Boosting the ferry industry may prove a little harder. Forecast passenger growth for 2001-2004 is just 1.4 per cent and for 2004-2006, 1.18 per cent. However, deficiencies have been spotted at the region's ferry terminals and in Palma, there are ambitious plans for a new ferry terminal at the commercial docks just 100 metres down from the Cathedral. Many of the Balearics' ferry ports also lack sufficient public transport connections, terminals and a clear distinction between passenger ferries and merchant shipping. Balearic airports also need to seriously account for inter-island passengers with a proper infrastructure and even terminals which will allow quick and easy check-in and access to planes.

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