The Balearic university and the Sol Melia chain have signed an agreement to set up a chair of Sol Meliá studies in tourism to promote research and training in the chief economic sector of the Balearics. It will also establish an annual prize of 12'000 euros. The chief purpose of this initiative is to increase the quality of tourism through better training for people who work in the section, it was explained yesterday by University rector Llorenç Huguet and Gabriel Escarrer, president of the Sol Meliá chain. The new chair will promote the development of research and studies on tourism from economic, geographical, juridical and social viewpoints. Under the agreement, which is valid for five years, the hotel chain will provide 60'000 euros a year to finance the corresponding actions. This includes an annual Gabriel Escarrer award for studies in tourism, worth 12'000 euros. The jury will comprise representatives of the university and the tourist group. During the press conference, both Huguet and Escarrer referred to the slight recession affecting tourism in the Balearics due, among other reasons, to competition from new resort areas. Escarrer said that governments and private enterprise should take immediate action to improve the quality-price relationship in the Balearics. Escarrer, who has an honorary degree from the University, said that he was keen to collaborate with university initiatives to establish ties which will bring students closer to the professional reality of the workplace. The agreement also covers the creation of a University-Sol Meliá training centre in tourism, in which university lecturers and business managers will take part. Courses will also be organised in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin in the United States, which will lead to student exchanges and the two universities will put a masters degree in tourism management on line. The Sol Meliá chain has 350 hotels in 30 countries. Accompanying Gabriel Escarrer were consultant Maria Antonia Escarrer, the director of human resources, Delfin Pérez, and the director general of communications, Jaume Puig. On behalf of the university, the vice rectors Avelí Blasco, for international projects and relations, and Jaume Sureda, for student relations, were also present.