Content to play with fire, the Balearic government, determined to push ahead with the tourist tax, yesterday brushed aside claims that the local economy is in crisis, claiming that the economic climate is ideal for the March introduction of the levy on tourists. Balearic vice-president Pere Sampol, despite the severity of the government's decision, jokingly said that January 17, the day on which the Constitutional Tribunal in Madrid lifted its suspension on the tax, should be a Balearic bank holiday. Sampol said that the Tribunal's decision is most satisfactory and was made in defence of the autonomous communities and public interest. Sampol explained that the tax will enable the Balearics to raise extra funds to help preserve, renovate the holiday resorts and protect the environment and the region's cultural heritage. Sampol also said that the tax will benefit the Balearics' struggling agricultural sector. The vice-president said that the Balearic cabinet met yesterday morning and agreed that despite claims from the local business and hotel sector, the local economy is not in crisis. There appear to be no concrete facts and figures to suggest that the economy is suffering. What is true is that the number of tourists visiting the Balearics last year was 1.5 per cent down on the previous year, but Sampol said that tourist spending rose by 1.5 per cent last year to 1.3 billion pesetas. Sampol said that the economic climate in Britain is very favourable and that the German economy is improving. The vice-president is convinced that while bookings for the Balearics are down at the moment they will pick up eventually with late bookers and that is something we will have to get used to. Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar, does not believe that the tax will have any negative effects on holiday bookings and will not reduce the Balearics' competitiveness. To the contrary, Alomar believes that the tax will give the region a distinctive edge over other destinations. Balearic President Francesc Antich repeated claims that should the region be hit by a significant fall in holiday bookings, his government will not have any problems with altering the application of the tourist tax but at the moment there neither appears to be a tourism nor economic crisis. Antich is adamant that the ruling and the introduction of the tax is a victory for the Balearic people.
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