Friday, July 12, 2013

The Myth Of The Record Tourism Season

How very odd. One moment we are told this will be a record tourism season and the next moment we are told that it will not be. Last month, the word was that hotel occupancy for July and August was 80%, a rate with which the hoteliers were happy, as they could anticipate last-minute sales boosting the rate to over the 90% mark, which will almost certainly happen. But, or so it would appear, this last-minute business requires lowering prices.

It would indeed be odd were this not to turn out to be a record season, given events in Egypt and Turkey and the fact that certain destinations, notably Croatia, do not have the volume of hotel places to meet demand that Mallorca has. It would also be odd, as June had indicated that Mallorca was indeed heading for a record season, as demonstrated by a record number of passengers having used Palma airport - slightly under three million and an increase of 1.3% over last year.

There will of course be an explanation for the apparent discrepancy between increased passenger numbers and under-occupancy, and it will be the provision of illegal private tourist accommodation. The hoteliers will make much of this, as they always do, because it is part of their usual propaganda.

Record or not record. High occupancy rates or not so high occupancy rates. What do we believe? As for lowering prices, it is not uncommon for there to be special offers for last-minute bookings, but who drives these offers? Is it the hotels or is it the tour operators? The latter have planes they need to fill as much as they have hotels. They will do what they have to do in order to ensure decent returns on all aspects of their holiday offer.

Occupancy rates, assuming they do go over the 90% mark, which they surely will do, are in fact good occupancy rates. At no time this century has there been 100% occupancy; 100% across the whole of Mallorca, that is. It just doesn't happen. July's occupancy last year, which went well over the 90% mark, was a record for this century.

When a travel source is quoted as saying that "if Mallorca is not full in July, then we can forget a record season", this travel source is echoing the hysterical claim made by the hoteliers last year, that Mallorca not being full was evidence of a "broken economy". There is no such thing as Mallorca being full. Travel sources and hoteliers should look at the historical data.

There is with average percentages of occupancy a great difference between resorts and even within resorts. There are and will be hotels that are full. There are hotels which have been full for several weeks and there will be those which are full for most of the season. Some may have made special offers, some may have not, but the special offer is not evidence of a non-record season; it is common practice.

There has to be some caution when one is confronted with any of the "record" or non-record talk. It is never as straightforward as it is made out to be. But while such talk can disguise certain realities, there is one issue on which there is general agreement, and that is tourist spend. When hoteliers complain that their guests are not spending, they are often right to complain.

I accept that one anecdotal example is far from sufficient, but let me give the example anyway. A hotel I know is full and has been full for several weeks. The other evening its entertainment room was packed. However, bar sales (this is not an all-inclusive) were poor. Among the people in the room was one particular group. They stayed for the whole evening's entertainment without buying a single drink.

Tourism spend, or the lack of it, is becoming an increasingly serious matter. What does a hotel do? One option is to press to become all-inclusive. This does at least give it certain guarantees. But in so doing, it makes worse the general situation caused by all-inclusives and lower spend. Another option, one for three-star hotels, is to upgrade in the hope of attracting a wealthier clientele. But let's say that most or all Mallorca's hotels suddenly became four or five-star. What then? Could they sell all their places? No they couldn't.

Talk of record seasons or not record seasons is largely irrelevant. It is predicated on occupancy rates which disguise various factors that make such talk irrelevant. There is no such thing as a record season. Just as there is no such thing as 100% occupancy.

Any comments to please.

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