The Balearic government has been given one final piece of advice by central government to think long and hard about the tourist tax. The Secretary General for Tourism, Juan José Güemes, yesterday asked the local government to seriously consider the implications of applying the tax at such a “delicate time,” adding that it will have a negative effect on the Balearics' ability to compete with other destinations, both at home and overseas. Güemes admitted that Balearic President Francesc Antich and his government are more than capable of introducing the tax, but he reminded the government that it has an “obligation to consider the consequences and that it will be responsible for repercussions of the tourist tax.” “The international tourist industry is going through a very complex period, especially the Balearics, it's the only big Spanish destination which suffered a drop in the number of tourists in 2000 and 2001.” Juan José Güemes also said that the tax is plagued with difficulties, not just that it is to be introduced under the current market conditions, but how it is to be applied “it will prove negative for small businesses, the large hotel chains and the tour operators,” he said. “The key problem is that the creation of the new tax will damage the primary sources of income for the Spanish and Balearic economies.” Güemes said that all those involved with promoting tourism have tried to highlight the problems and flaws in the Balearics and how they can be improved and solved “but the campaign has been accompanied by a confused political message, perhaps involuntarily, but one that, in certain markets such as in Germany, has been interpreted as certain German tourists are no longer wanted and that has caused tourism figures to fall by nearly half a million.” To mark the end of the FITUR travel fair in Madrid, the World Tourism Organisation reported that growth in the normally buoyant tourism sector ground to a halt in 2001 and international arrivals slipped by 1.3% due to the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the weakening economies of major tourism generating markets. However, destinations such as Spain, Greece, Austria and France have benefited from their familiarity to most European holidaymakers. Spain gained a firm place as the world's number two destination in 2001 despite a change in statistical methodology in 2000 that caused it to drop temporarily to third place behind the United States.


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