THE controversial Balearic tourist tax will tomorrow celebrate its first anniversary, but the past 12 months have not served to heal the rift between the hotel sector and the local government over the levy. Any celebrating will be done by the Balearic government, the left-wing pact has hailed the tax as “the most significant project of its legislature”. The hotel sector however claims that it “has seriously damaged the tourist industry” and is the primary reason why the industry is struggling. However, the tax has raised 36.7 million euros since May 1 last year and much of it has been invested in environmental, heritage and cultural projects, as envisaged by the government. But while opponents of the tax have no discrepancies with the idea of raising extra funds for the protection and management of the environment, hoteliers, and some local politicians, claim that the manner in which the tax has been designed is “unfair and discriminatory.” A blanket tax with all visitors paying the levy would have not been such a bitter pill to swallow, but only hotel and registered self catering guests over the age of 12 on non-subsidised state holidays, such as pensioners, have to pay the tax, an average of one euro per day. The hotel sector is angry that only its clients have been targeted and claim that the levy is a hotel tax not a tourist tax, hence it has lodged an appeal with the courts in Madrid on the grounds that the tax is unfair and unconstitutional. Hoteliers also claim that while their clients are being taxed, the government is doing nothing to combat the illegal accommodation market. It generates some 60 million euros per year, non of which is declared to the tax man, revenue which could be used to cover the costs of the government's green heritage projects. Political opponents to the government believe that the Balearics should seek a greater return on taxes paid to Madrid while leading European tour operators have suggested that, until the tourist industry returns to normal, especially in the Balearics, the tax be at least suspended. Spokesperson for the Majorcan Hotel Federation, Antoni Fuster, said yesterday “the tourist tax has brought nothing positive to the Balearics, it has been badly understood by the key markets and badly managed here.”

BRITISH WILL SAVE THE SUMMER SAYS MINISTER
BRITISH tourists will save the summer season again this year says the Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar.
Despite reports of a further 10 to 15 per cent drop in German tourism, the Minister appears more confident with a five per cent decline which will leave a gap in the market he is certain the British will fill easily. Five per cent is the figure which has been reached by tourism experts at Dresden University on behalf of the German association of travel agents and tour operators, but Alomar believes that the Balearic will witness an increase in British tourism which will compensate for a second consecutive year of decline in the German market. Alomar announced at the World Travel Market in London last November that the British market re-established itself as the Balearics' number one market last year and he is expecting another promising performance. Nevertheless, Alomar said that the regional industry has to continue diversifying and offering new products in order to compete with emerging destinations. “Providing we continue to offer new products, our future has certain guarantees,” he said. The findings of the Dresden report were echoed by the Secretary of State for Tourism, Germán Porras, in Minorca. He said that the British market is showing very encouraging signs of picking up while the German market, at best, may match last year's figures for the mainland and the Canaries, but holiday sales for the Balearics are still down on last year. But he warned “if Balearic tourism does badly again, so does the Spanish industry."

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