The Balearic tourist tax comes into force today amidst continuing controversy and confusion in the tourist industry and political circles. Yesterday both the Balearic President Francesc Antich and the regional Minister for Tourism Celesti Alomar did the rounds, shoring up support for the tax, stressing the importance and significance of the tax for the Balearics' future. But for opposition politicans, it is a shame that the tax was not at least postponed until after the summer season, which officially starts today. Alomar said that today's introduction of the tax is the foundation stone of a new model for tourism in the Balearics which will be based on quality not quantity. The Minister launched a new tourist awareness campaign yesterday and every tourist arriving at Palma airport will receive a special welcome letter, thanking them for their help in protecting and improving the Balearic environment and resorts, reviving the region's culture, which in turn will ensure they have a better holiday in the future. However while the welcome brochure details the government's intentions for the Balearics of the future, nowhere does it mention the tourist tax they will have to pay on arrival at their hotels. Some tourists may be left wondering what the brochure, which has been published in six different languages and will be handed out by a team of public relations men and women with welcome in the various languages sported on the front of their baseball caps, is all about. A total of ten million pamphlets are being printed and will be handed out to every tourist arriving at each of the three Balearic airports over the next three months. Alomar also said that according to the Balearic treasury's calculations, the tax will this year raise an extra 30 million euros for environmental projects. The first of these will be unveiled this week and is expected to involve five projects on each of the Balearic islands. During the presentation Alomar said that the global tourist industry has changed over recent years. The number of resorts and destinations now far exceed demand hence the need to compete on quality as opposed to quantity. The Balearics, Alomar said, for years has been the safe and easy alternative destination to those gripped by war and terrorism, but he admitted that the Eastern Mediterranean is now competing hard with the Balearics and tourism figures are rising on an annual basis. By the year 2005, for example, there will be 400'000 new bed spaces in the Mediterranean. But the Balearics does not want to enter a race for maximum beds, but maximum quality. The Minister was also keen to stress that the new model for tourism in the Balearics does not simply revolve around the tourist tax, but also new water and energy saving schemes which will all lead to a higher standard of living in the Balearics. But a new model for tourism will not come about without the co-operation of the hotel sector, factions of which are still at loggerheads with the Balearic government over the tax.
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