By Jason Moore
I get the feeling that turbulent times are ahead for the Balearics in 2004 as the economic slowdown continues and the local government continues to introduce controversial policies. I think you can safely say that the local economy is sailing close to recession; economic growth is basically non existent. This winter a record number of hotels have closed their doors meaning that the economy won't get any vital tourist euros until the spring. Germany is still in deep recession and in Britain the threat of more interest rate rises will subdue consumer spending which will naturally have a knock-on effect on holiday sales. While tour operators have appealed to hoteliers to drop their prices they appear to be standing firm. I think that summer 2004 will be another poor season. Although the island may get the numbers they will all be concentrated in just six weeks. Meanwhile, the new government looks set to press ahead with its ambitious road building programme and I can see plenty of protests ahead and there is still deep concern that Majorca is becoming over-developed. The reason why Jaume Matas, the Balearic President was ejected from office five years ago was as a result of his build, build and build policy. He appears to be making the same mistake once again despite his success at the polls six months ago. What Matas appears incapable of doing is trying to find a balance. Also, his government's tourism policies were all very well a decade ago but things have changed especially in Majorca and new ideas are now needed. I would say that the safest option for the government in the New Year is a more cautious approach, delaying controversial projects and trying to get a full concensus within the industry on what new steps can be taken. 2004 is going to a watershed year for the Balearics and it is going to be interesting to see whether it emerges stronger or weaker. I suspect, and I hope I am proved wrong, that it will be the latter.

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