For the first time ever, Balearic hotels will this winter see a drop in bookings, according to the vice president of the Majorcan Hotel Federation, Ignacio Esteve, who yesterday warned that bookings over Christmas will be down by as much as 15 percent because of the proposed tourist tax. Esteve made it clear yesterday that the Balearic hotel sector has not changed its attitude to the tax and said that he could not express the sector's opposition to the tax strongly enough. The vice president said that the Balearic government has demonised the tourist with the creation of the tourist tax which in turn is a seriously bad mistake for which we are already starting to pay the consequences. Esteve echoed what domestic and international opponents to the tax have been trying to get through to the local government since the start of the year, that the tourist industry is very sensitive to bad news about tourist destinations and that in certain countries, especially in Germany, damaging publicity campaigns have been created about the tourist tax which have fuelled the drop in tourists this year. The vice president of the Hotel federation also fears that the government has driven a deep wedge between the legal and illegal accommodation sectors and while the local government wants to crack down on non-registered establishments, all it has done with the tax is make the illegal sector more attractive as only holidaymakers staying in hotels and registered accommodation, which is 40 percent of the market, will have to pay the tax. Already this year, the local hotel industry has seen occupation fall with an increasing number of tourists staying in either self catering or illegal accommodation and the market shift is expected to become more extreme with the introduction of the tax. Esteve also hinted that should the tax, which the Balearic government are trying to push through parliament as quickly as possible, be enforced, hotel owners will cover the costs of the 12'000 million pesetas the government hopes to raise for its environment management and protection fund, in order to ease the burden on their clients. The tax will have negative implications, not only for the tourist industry but the islands as a whole, Esteve said. An impact study carried out by Ernst & Young for the Hotel Federation concluded that the tax will cost the Balearic economy 105'190 million pesetas a year. The federation's lawyers also claim that the tax is unconstitutional and the hotel sector is still pushing ahead with its threat to take legal action in order to block the tax. The only Spanish tourist region closed this winter is the Balearics, the government was told yesterday.