MIAMI -- Spain will get a tourism boost this summer as vacationers
flock to the western corner of the European continent, far from the
troubles in Yugoslavia, according to some delegates at the Travel
Industry Association's International Pow Wow here.
Serving travelers in the Benelux region, Roelof de Kroes, owner
of the agency Players Travel in Laren, Netherlands, said his agency
was booking record numbers of clients into Spanish resorts. "Many
of these people would have gone to the beaches of Greece and
Turkey, but that business virtually disappeared" after the NATO
bombing of Yugoslavia began and threats were made against tourists
by the PKK terrorist organization in Turkey, he said.
The western Mediterranean in general will see increased arrivals
because of a drop in traffic to the Adriatic and the east, some
Zoran Ivanovic, a general sales agent in Belgium and Luxembourg
for several cruise lines, including Costa, said he was seeing
heightened demand for western Mediterranean cruises that start in
Spain and visit ports such as St. Tropez and Cannes, France;
Monaco, and Portofino and Genoa, Italy. "Cruises starting from
Barcelona are particularly in demand," he said.
Gianni Miradoli, vice president of product development for
Central Holidays in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., said outbound U.S.
business to Spain had taken off after the Kosovo crisis. Like many
other delegates here, he pointed to the fact that Spain's beaches
were in demand particularly because travelers felt they were far
away from Kosovo.
The firm's business to Spain is up 20%, Miradoli said, in
contrast to bookings to Italy, which he estimated were down by
Another of Europe's beach destinations, Croatia's Dalmatian
coast, received a lot of sympathy from delegates, who had been
impressed by the region's recovery after the war in Bosnia.
Representatives of several Croatia-based travel agencies here said
that current bookings to southern Croatia were down by about 30%,
and hotel rates have been slashed by as much as 40%.
The Croatians here said that the region is heavily reliant on
domestic tourism. "We are still going to travel there this summer
because it is very safe domestically, and people from neighboring
countries such as Slovenia and Austria will still come because they
can drive and are not concerned about the safety of the air space,"
a spokesman for Kompas Travel in Zagreb said. "Our heaviest
international traffic is always in August. So we hope that if the
Kosovo situation is resolved by July, we might experience pent-up
demand for Croatia," he said.
Pow Wow delegates also commented on the inbound market: An
informal sampling of several dozen attendees who handle
international arrivals to the U.S. said business this summer would
be up by 5% to 12%.
A spokesman for Mayflower Tours in Downers Grove, Ill., reported
that international arrivals were up by 12% this year for the firm's
receptive services to Chicago. The U.K. and Germany were
particularly strong, he noted.
J. Jason Mosquera, director of sales/international for the Hotel
Inter-Continental here and in New York, was satisfied by a 12%
growth from Europe for both hotels, with some exceptions.
"German-speaking countries are sending less visitors because of the
war in Kosovo. They're a bit nervous about going anywhere," he
"The Latin American market is still suffering from the fall of
the Brazilian real and political instability in Venezuela. The
whole leisure segment [from Latin America] is down about 12% for
both of our properties, but corporate travel remains stable."
From the eastern Europe market, which still accounts for a very
small percentage of total international arrivals to the U.S.,
operators agreed that growth was steady. The number of travelers
from former Eastern Bloc countries who have enough disposable
income for a leisure stay in the U.S. is limited, operators
reported, but with the exception of Yugoslavia, economic factors
were encouraging for the further emergence of the market.
Vaclav Zenisek, a partner in Prague-based Action Travel, said
the number of Czechs coming to the U.S. with his firm will increase
by 10% this year. "The financial situation for the newest NATO
members, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, is more stable
than it has ever been; investors are not running scared despite the
proximity of Kosovo," he said.
Travel to the U.S. from the Netherlands is booming, according to
de Kroes. He said that the destination was benefitting from an
excess of air capacity. "For the first time that I can remember,
there will actually be a summer fare war. Continental started
service from Brussels this month and will add service to Zurich in
June and Amsterdam in July plus additional service to London in
August," he said. "This and an increase in service by several other
carriers to Europe has made for the most competitive market in
Friedrich Oldenburg, sales manager, Germany, Austria and
Switzerland in Frankfurt, agreed. "The biggest increases to Europe
are coming from Continental and KLM/Northwest. Some of the worst
fare wars right now are in the German-to-U.S. market; we [United]
have 24 airlines competing with us right now."