OPERATORS are planning to expand their programmes to Spain for summer 2000 despite a slight dip in the market this year.
Bookings are an estimated 2% down year on year, but operators say they are confident Spain will sell well next year.
Unijet is adding 51 more Spanish properties to its second-edition summer 2000 brochure due out shortly, and rival Sunworld hinted it will be introducing an expanded programme to Spain.
Panorama is returning to the Costa del Sol for summer 2000 with the addition of five properties in Torremolinos and Benalmadena and has introduced Fuerteventura and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands as year-round destinations. First Choice and Thomson have added extra properties across the board.
Thomson head of Spain planning Tony Hopkins said: "For summer '99 we have more Spanish holidays left to sell than we had this time last year, but that is because 1998 was a very good year.
"We think the market is just returning to a more realistic level, but Spain is still the most popular destination and there is possibly less availability for Spain than for other destinations."
The UK director of the Spanish National Tourist Office Antonio de la Morena blamed the slight dip in bookings for summer '99 on the fact that fewer Britons were taking holidays this year.
"When the UK holiday market is down, bookings for Spain are bound to be affected because it is the most popular destination," said de la Morena. "Last year was a record for Spain and I am not expecting 1999 to be another record year, but I think there will be a small increase in 2000."
The drop in bookings for summer '99 has gone some way to allaying operators' earlier fears that there would be an overbooking crisis during the high season. They report that double booking in resorts so far this summer has been no worse than in previous years.
Operators had been concerned at the start of the summer that the availability of cheap flights to Spain from the new low-cost carriers, coupled with the Kosovo crisis which was causing people to switch from the eastern Mediterranean to Spain, would put pressure on hotel beds.
But Thomson's Hopkins said: "We have not had any major incidents so far and we do not see overbooking as being a problem."
Sunworld product director Alan MacLean said the resolution of the Kosovo crisis had taken some of the heat off Spain.
"Greece has picked up quite a bit and Turkey has started to turn the corner, so there is not so much pressure on Spain," he added.
But Panorama sales and marketing director Martin Young warned that some clients could still turn up in resorts to find their rooms have been sold to someone else.
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