• Sol says Spain is declining

The summer season in Spain is likely to come in below last year, according to Spain's, and the world's, biggest resort operator Sol Melia.

It said in its first half results that the third quarter is likely to see a 5% drop in bookings in the country although in cities outside of Spain the outlook is much rosier.

Until May, bookings in Spain had looked healthy but in the past couple of months the "economic scenario has had a greater impact than expected on bookings".

The trading downturn, coupled with the debt difficulties in the property markets making asset disposal a challenge, means Sol would miss its profit targets for the full-year, the company said.

CEO Sebastian Escarrer highlighted three negative factors: price increases on raw materials; economic slowdown; and the lack of confidence in feeder markets.

In Europe, price increases are being limited although in the Caribbean hikes of 5% have been possible for 2009.

During the second quarter, Sol signed 1,195 rooms meaning a total of 3,641 in the first half. The company also bought a 40% stake in the new ME Barcelona hotel in a deal that valued the property at Eu103m. With the launch of this hotel, and the leased ME Vienna, the company hopes to increase the visibility for the ME brand.

Revenues were down 2.7% to Eu618.5m, EBITDA down 16.2% to Eu124.3m and net profit down 41.1% to Eu36.7m in the first half.

Meanwhile, despite the difficult resort market in Europe, a group of high profile tourism industry figures have launched a new East Mediterranean hotel brand.

Aquis Hotels has acquired five properties and has plans to grow to 12 in the next year. Three hotels are in Corfu, one in Kos and one on Crete.

The board includes David Howells, currently exec chairman of luxury tour operator Western & Oriental; John Kent, chief executive of youtravel.com; and Andreas Vasilou, managing director of Amathus UK.

Between Eu150m and Eu200m is being invested in the chain with equity coming from UK, UAE and Egyptian investors.

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