The Balearics is braced for a 29 per cent drop in British winter package holiday tourists, a drop which tourism experts admitted yesterday “is not normal.” Spain however, is the number one destination for Britain this winter, with a 38 per cent share of the UK holiday market, although bookings for this winter are currently down 11 per cent on last year. According to the results of a British holiday market study carried out by AC Nielsen for Balearic Centre for Investigation and Tourism Technology (CITTIB), at the end of September, over all, winter holiday bookings were ten per cent down on last year, with a 12 per cent drop in demand for the Canary Islands and a six per cent fall in bookings for mainland Spain. With regards to the Balearics, 33.378 winter holidays had been booked by September 30. Ironically, British winter holiday bookings for Minorca are up 71 per cent and in Ibiza, which suffered a drop in British summer tourists this year, winter bookings are also up by 61 per cent. But for Majorca, 30 per cent less winter holidays have been sold than last year. Antoni Serra, the CITTIB's director of source markets, said that the drop in British bookings “is not normal,” adding that one of the reasons could be the increase in the number of package holidays to the Canaries and other destinations on the UK market this year. The Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celestí Alomar, is downhearted by the report. He said that while there has been a fall in package holiday bookings, the large number of people who will book at the last minute and those who will book independently, the latter of which has grown significantly, have not been accounted for. Alomar sees no reason why British winter tourism figures in the Balearics will not evolve to match last winter. But while the winter is looking rather dull for the Balearics, in particular Majorca, the long term outlook for next summer is much brighter. Already, Britons have booked 15 per cent more holidays for next summer with a 13 per cent increase in inquiries and interest in holidays to Spain. A 29 per cent rise in bookings for mainland holidays has been reported as well as a nine per cent increase in demand for the Canaries and an eight per cent rise for the Balearics (11% to Ibiza, 8% Majorca and 4% Minorca.) As far as Serra is concerned, providing the British holiday market remains on its present course and no international incidents, such as war in Iraq, alter the country's economic expectations, “bookings for next summer in the Balearics will be similar to this year,” or slightly up again.

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