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Despite early indications suggesting that the Easter break may have been one of the quietest in some time, the reality of how busy the first main holiday break has been looks set to pave the way for an even better summer.

Prior to the start of the weekend, the DGT traffic department had already warned of an anticipated 12 million vehicle movements as residents living inland headed towards coastal towns for the holidays. Across the Valencia region, taking in the Costa Blanca and such hot spots as Benidorm, Torrevieja and Orihuela, the figure was estimated at 1,535,000, half a million of which were in the Alicante province. The figure was quoted as being the quietest since 2005, although anybody who got stuck in the countless traffic jams on the bottle neck of the N-332 in Torrevieja will testify, the reality seemed busier than ever.

Tourists coming from the UK were also expected to be particularly positive in terms of numbers, with an estimated 1.6 million Brits heading out of the UK to Spain, the most popular choice, as well as Turkey, Tunisia and Florida, according to the ABTA association.

Budget airline Easyjet announced that on Friday they were expecting their busiest day in the history of the company, since they were founded in 1995, flying more than 200,000 passengers on 1,400 flights.

Alicante-Elche airport had 2,343 flight movements scheduled for the weekend, which implies an increase of 28.2% compared to Easter last year, with the busiest day being Saturday, with around 250 scheduled flights offering nearly 44,000 seats.

In an interview this week, Oliver Dörschuck, co-manager at Europe’s leading travel group TUI, which includes popular tourist brands such as First Choice and Thomson, says that “Spain is by far the most important tourist destination for TUI and its clients. We are registering an outstanding demand for all the major Spanish destinations for next summer. This means that Spain will repeat its success as tourist destination in 2014, especially Mallorca, which is TUI’s first big destination. Spain is and will continue to be a key destination for us.”

It wasn´t just the plane and roads bringing people to the Costa Blanca though, during the course of the next 3 weeks, more than 8,000 cruise passengers will set foot on land at Alicante, aboard 5 ships that will be docking on the 23rd and 24th of April, and the 1st, 2nd and 8th of May, with passengers travelling with Pulmantur, Thomson and Holland America Line.

On Good Friday, 2,610 passengers already arrived at the port, on board the Holland America Line cruise ship, MS Nieuw Amsterdam. With her 11 passenger decks and 285 metre length, she was launched in 2009 and entered service in 2013, Nieuw Amsterdam is the company’s 81st ship and the second largest Holland America ship to date.

Francesco Balbi, director of operations at the Terminal de Cruceros de Alicante, explained how the port is already geared up to handle such large numbers, with an information point, including health and first aid services, equipment and staff for dealing with passengers of reduced mobility, loading and unloading facilities and links with tourist and travel information and excursion companies to provide every possible facility that a modern cruise passenger my need.

The port itself is also set to undergo extensive work during the next ten years, which would allow up to 70 ships per year to dock, increasing the potential number of passengers to 250,000 per year.

As for the ever increasingly popular train link, this too was boosted, with 50,000 seats being made available, some 5,000 more than the normal schedule, with many would-be passengers still fininding it difficult to find an available ticket and even some political groups calling for an emergency increase in the service to cope with the oversubscribed demand.

Collectively, as both domestic and international tourists descended on Spain, the figures for hotel occupancy also suddenly showed signs of significant growth.

The Alicante hotel association reported an 80% occupancy figure for the Easter weekend, an 8% increase over last year, provincially. Alicante city has been more popular with international tourists than the Spanish throughout the year, with the exception being the Easter weekend, with the financial crisis being blamed for a drop in customers outside this key time.

The Benidorm hotel association HOSBEC were anticipating between 95% and 100% occupancy, with president Antoni Mayor explaining how they were increasingly close to hanging the “Completo” signs on the doors. The British, Belgian and Dutch markets have been particularly good for Benidorm, as well as a fair share of domestic visitors.

Torrevieja was looking set to be placed in between those two places, with the Hotel Doña Monse showing a 90% occupancy rate, though most of their guests were Spanish, seemingly not quite managing to reach out to the international tourist sector yet.

Translating the visitor numbers into financial figures is the most important element in the sector of course, and so time can only tell how successful the weekend has actually been. We do know however that in January, the Spanish tourist sector recorded a 2.1 billion euro surplus, an increase of 10.5% compared to the same month in 2013, whereas in February, the value was 6.1 billion euro, a similar increase of 9.1% over 2013.

The World Travel and Tourism Council has forecast a growth of 2% in the Spanish tourism sector in 2014, whilst the longer term forecast for the second half of the year has been put at over 17 million tourists, again maintaining a 9.6% growth over 2013.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43385/

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