NEWS that the Balearic government is going to increase the tourist tax by 2.7 per cent from January 1 has astonished Madrid and the secretary general for tourism, Juan José Güemes. Güemes said yesterday that by hiking the tax by 2.7 per cent the Balearic government “will be making the same mistake again while also being a move in the completely opposite direction to the one the government should be working in at the moment.” Güemes underlined the fact that during the first ten months of this year, the Balearics suffered a ten per cent fall in tourism while the slump in the German market has risen to nearly 20 per cent “the Balearic government needs to change its strategy and adopt policies to revive and boost tourism.” The secretary general is also concerned about the Balearic tourist industry's plight as it “performed the worst in Spain, with a great difference, this year... the number of tourists to Spain are so far up by two per cent this year.” His concerns and criticism of the tax hike echo those voiced by the Balearic tourist industry and leading international tour operators this week. Further cause for concern is that, according to Güemes, 3.000 jobs were lost in the Balearic tourist sector this summer because of the fall in tourism. “We're no longer talking about a drop in tourism figures, but the negative effect the situation is having on the region's primary industry and the employment sector,” the secretary general added. Tourism accounts for 80 of the Balearic economy. “The majority of international experts and the business community are calling for the tax to be scrapped, especially now that the drop in tourism it has provoked is leading to a deterioration of the Balearic economy,” Güemes said. Majorcan hoteliers still hope the tax will be declared unconstitutional by the Madrid appeals court where it is being challenged by the central government.