The Chief Executive of Britain's biggest tour company the Airtours/My Travel Group, Tim Byrne, warned in Palma yesterday that there was a danger that the tourist tax could work against the Balearic government. “If you are told when you book your holiday that you will have to pay an environmental surcharge you may think, ‘Oh I'm not going to go there because there is obviously something wrong with the environment',” he said yesterday at the presentation of one of the two cruise ships the holiday giant will base in Palma. “It's a natural reaction. I saw an interview on BBC TV this week about the tax and basically I think the only thing it did was to alarm holidaymakers,” he added. Byrne still maintains the tourist tax is a bad idea and underlined the fact that tourists had brought hundreds of millions of pounds to the Balearics over the years and therefore there was no reason to make them pay even more for their holiday. “The package holiday market is still reeling from the effects of September 11. Bookings to the Balearics are still down in Britain. Now is no time to introduce an additional charge,” he said. The Airtours chief countered the local ministry for tourism who claim that one euro a day is a small charge to pay. “We have already had to introduce an additional surcharge to cover added insurance and security costs because of September 11. One euro is not a lot but costs soon start to mount up.” The Manchester-based holiday giant has reduced the number of hotels beds it has reserved in Majorca so a similar season as last year is impossible. More worrying still for the Balearics is the growth in bookings to Turkey. “Turkey is up by 10 per cent and it is especially popular with the Germans. It is only 90 minutes flying time away (for the Germans) and it's half the price,” he said. Byrne said that while the Balearics had actually made the cost of a holiday more expensive, governments in other competing resorts in the Eastern Mediterranean were providing subsidies to help the tourist industry weather the effects of the September 11 attacks. He went on to say that the Germans were also finding the Balearics expensive thanks to the euro. “They are paying the same price for a beer in Frankfurt as they would in Palma,” he said. Airtours/My Travel owns a tour firm in Germany which has seen its bookings to Turkey rise dramatically, while bookings to the Balearics remain low. The Chief Executive said that he expected the market to recover as many people are still holding out to book their holiday. But he added “what the Balearics must remember is that they have plenty of competition. From mainland Spain from Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Eastern Europe is also opening up. Like all industries things are extremely competitive.” The Chief Executive praised many of the improvements which had been made to local resorts over the years and said that the Balearics were a better place now, than they were five years ago.


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