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Monday, 19th March was a Bank Holiday here in Spain - St Joseph's Day and Dia del Padre - Father's Day, where it was also celebrated in Belgium, Italy and Portugal. In the UK it does not fall until Sunday 17th June but looking at other European countries it falls on a variety of dates. It is also the same with Mother's Day - in the UK it has just been but much of Europe does not celebrate until May, obviously on different Sundays. Wouldn't it be SO simple if Father's Day was on the same date everywhere and the same for Mother's Day? No confusion then ... but I know, life isn't so simple.
Busy Benidorm skyline
This was the first bank holiday of the year in Spain and hoteliers in Benidorm were delighted to report an average occupancy rate of 90% which has injected some optimism into the tourism sector. However, hoteliers are still cautious as many have had to adjust rates in a battle to stem the decline of customers and some have even admitted that rooms are 30% cheaper than five years ago! But overall occupancy has gone very well despite selling on Winter prices to attract customers. Hosbec have just released occupancy rates for the first 2 weeks of March (1-15th) and they show 69.1% - but this does not include the busy Bank Holiday weekend just gone. Spanish customers accounted for 50.7% which equals 210,000 rooms and the next biggest market was the British at 38%, taking 157,000 rooms over the first fifteen days of March. With only 10 days left till the end of March, the monthly figures look to be 2.3% above 2011. They also showed occupancy of hotels by star ratings; 2 star 61%, 3 star 76.7% and 4 star with 62.2%.
Striking Gran Bali hotel
However, the director of the prestigious 4 star Gran Hotel Bali, located in La Cala Benidorm was delighted that he could hang the "FULL" sign up over the weekend - all 776 rooms being occupied. Many Spaniards flock to Benidorm, especially from Madrid - they regard it as "their local beach" - being only a 4 hour drive away. The weather over this Bank Holiday was glorious with wall to wall sunshine and the City dwellers were looking for their first few days of sun and sand of the season. The tourist sector is now concentrating its efforts on attracting tourists for the next big Bank Holiday - Easter, which falls on Sunday 8th April. A source at "Hosbec", the hoteliers association said "People wait until the last minute to book, sometimes even waiting until the day before travelling". Therefore none of the hotels surveyed dared to predict occupancy rates over this long weekend, but it is anticipated that prices will increase with rates similar to those of high season. Airfares are already inflated over this period - even if you don't have children you can always tell when there is a school break as the prices go up sharply for that period then go back down. Its a difficult decision faced by parents ... do they take them out of school a few days early to save, sometimes hundreds of pounds if its a family of 4 or be penalized ?