The controversial Balearic tourist tax came into force yesterday, or did it? The majority of the first wave of tourists to arrive at Palma airport yesterday morning, in particular the Spanish on a flight from Madrid, knew nothing about it. Most people on board a flight from East Midland airport were quite prepared to pay the tax, some even thought it was a good idea, as did most Germans and Dutch on a flight from Amsterdam. Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar, was at the airport to greet the first tourist tax flight and watch the welcome leaflets being handed out by the team of public relations men and women. But while the European arrivals were handed their leaflet, which they duly stuffed in their hand luggage, it was the Spanish who were outraged by the tax. Many tourists said they had been told nothing about the levy by their travel agents on booking their holiday and that the tax was unfair. Some said they would obviously pay the tax under duress while most of them said that they will not be coming back but will holiday in the mainland. The Spanish were overwhelmingly opposed to the tax. For the European package holidaymakers, the tax is going to have little effect. All of the main hotel chains, bar one, are not directly charging the tax, in fact, on arrival at their hotels, tourists were given a voucher of seven or 14 euros, depending how many nights they are staying, to spend at the hotel bars. In return all the holidaymaker is required to do is sign a receipt authorising the hotel to claim for a refund should the tourist tax be quashed in the Madrid courts. Only the RIU hotel chain, which has 16 establishments in the Balearics, is charging the tax, but in return a voucher for drinks and hotel discounts is handed over to compensate the tourist. The vast majority of package holidaymakers coming to the Balearics will not be paying the tax. The five star hotels are however charging the two euros per day per person and some of the independent family run hotels are also having to either collect the tax or cover the costs themselves. At the airport Alomar said that the government's aim is not to inform tourists about the tax, that's the task of the tour operators, but to explain, as openly as possibly, how the money that is being raised thanks to them coming here is being spent. Nowhere in the welcome leaflets handed out does it mention the tax. On being handed one of the colour leaflets by a smiling PR woman, most British tourists said oh! that's nice, thank you, and stuffed it in their luggage. There is still a certain amount of confusion in the hotel sector about the tax and the this weekend, the first transfer weekend of the summer season, could prove to be the big test.
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