THE local elections are going to be fought on a single issue, the state of the tourist industry. I have seen the manifestoes of the leading parties and it leaves me in no doubt that this is an election which will be fought over the beaches. The Partido Popular, have already fired the first salvo claiming that while tourism to the mainland has risen the Balearics is suffering. Deputy Prime Minister Rodrigo Rato, made it quite clear in Palma. According to tourism figures for the first four months of this year the Balearics has dropped from first place, as regards visitor numbers, to fourth place. Meanwhile, the coalition local government has mounted a rear-guard action claiming that the islands can look forward to a bumper season. Easter was allegedly one of the best on record despite the fact that a large number of hotels and businesses have not opened yet. The number of British passengers passing through Palma airport in March actually fell by 12 percent while German tourism, compared to March 2002, declined by a further 10 percent. March 2002 was already considered a nightmare month for German tourism anyhow. So only a fool would say that all is well within our principal industry. I am pleased to see that tourism is back at the forefront because I've got the impression over recent years that the industry was no longer of paramount importance. Without money from tourism there can be little public spending. In otherwords a good summer season will mean there is more money for roads and other projects. The local government have blamed everyone from Saddam Hussein to Bin Laden for the fall in visitor numbers but the truth is much closer to home. This election must be fought over tourism because without tourists we have little future. The electorate must divide who will steer the industry through the choppy waters of recession on to a new course of growth.
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