Britons targeted in tourism drive

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The Independent Online
BRITISH tourists to Majorca - once famous for their fondness for Union Jack shorts and cheap lager - are being wooed by the Spanish government in its drive to promote a more up-market image for its holiday industry.

Fernando Panizo, the Spanish tourism minister, speaking before the opening in Palma today of the Association of British Travel Agents' convention, said British tourists are widely underestimated.

'Not all British tourists want cheap holidays,' he said, adding that Britain is the number one market for Paradors, the Spanish government-owned chain of luxury hotels, many of which are in buildings of historic and architectural importance.

His government is also providing grants to encourage people to open more small country house hotels in the French style.

'The lager louts have gone - there are no more English hooligans. I believe that in Britain now they can no longer afford to catch a plane to Spain,' Mr Panizo said. He admitted that his country had made 'many mistakes' since the first British package tourists arrived in Spain more than 40 years ago.

The Majorcan government has committed itself to undoing many of these mistakes. It is spending more than pounds 100m on smartening up the island's resorts. As part of this effort 25,000 of Majorca's stock of 150,000 hotel rooms are being taken out of the market, with the worst buildings being demolished, or converted to other use.

The island is also promoting its cultural connections and visitors will be encouraged to call on Palma's latest tourist attraction: the Miro foundation, which has an exhibition of more than 200 paintings, sculptures and engravings by the Catalan artist, who spent much of his life on the island.

Meanwhile, Mike Grindrod, president of Abta, says he suspects there will be another Land Travel-type collapse this year. He accused the Government of 'botching up' the legislation to enact a European Community directive on package travel, which should have ensured that all organisers of package holidays offer financial protection.

Land Travel, a coach company, collapsed last July with thousands of people losing their holiday because the company was not obliged to have a financial bond. The insurance industry has been reluctant to underwrite travel companies' bonds.