Bookings to Masjorca are down.

At 5p.m. today, the chairmen of the Balearics' three hotel federations will meet President Francesc Antich for what it hopes will be the final showdown over the controversial tourist tax. Pere Cañellas, chairman of the Majorcan Hotel Federation, accompanied by Francisco Mercadal and Joan Bufi from Minorca and Ibiza, will ask Antich to postpone the introduction of the levy until at least November. Although, the secretary general of the Minorcan Hotel Federation threw more coals on the fire last night, calling for the tax to be scrapped completely. Juan Juanico said “we will not support the tax in exchange that it is put back until November, which is the Balearic government's plan, we can't accept the tax.” However, it appears that the government is braced to back down over the tax's May 1 introduction. Last week's visit to Palma by IFTO, International Federation of Tour Operator chiefs to talk the hotel sector through the alarming slump in holiday bookings and have one last chat with Antich about the tourist tax, appears to have had some effect. IFTO has warned the government all along about the legality of bringing in the tax so early without having given tour operators sufficient time to include the tax in their brochure prices, as required in accordance with European Union legislation. With brochures for winter 2002 already in the high streets in the UK and Germany, tour operators could face a flood of complaints and compensation claims from holiday makers and consumer rights groups if the tax comes in to force on May 1. It is believed that this is the technicality Antich will use as grounds for agreeing to the hotel sector's demand that the levy be postponed. Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar, has repeatedly spoken over the past few days of the government's eagerness to “negotiate” with the hotel sector in order to reach a consensus over the tourist tax. However, Alomar has been refusing to comment, on whether or not Francesc Antich will agree to postponing the tax, but the Balearic president does now have a plausible get out clause he could use today.