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Staff reporter

THE Centre for Investigation and Tourist Technology in the Balearics (CITTIB) has carried out a study on the sustainability of tourism in the islands which reveals that people's sense of wellbeing has improved over the last few years, but that other aspects such as the uncertainty of the labour market and difficulty in acquiring housing have worsened. The report entitled “The measure of sustainability of tourism in the Balearics”, has been produced by a team working under the auspices of the sustainability section of the CITTIB and is published in book form by the Ministry of Tourism and the University of the Balearics. The work analyses the evolution of 12 key elements indicating sustainability for the period 1989-2002 (considered to be the period of the “third tourist boom”) and makes a diagnosis of material consolidated in the last years relating to ecological balance, social justice and economic efficiency in the consumption of natural resources. According to the information made available by this department directed by Celestí Alomar, one of the conclusions that was drawn from this study is that “the environmental variables that are shown in a more favourable light are those related to local habitat such as the reduction of congestion, the increase of protected areas of land and the efficiency of the use of natural resources. Unfavourably, the study showed “socioeconomic variables such as the uncertainty of the labour market, salary levels or difficulties of obtaining access to housing” continued to worsen throughout the period of the analysis and how this has keenly increased social vulnerability. Specifically, the report highlights how negative findings of the study were underpinned by seasonal factors during the whole period of investigation, increasing still further the difficulty of acquiring housing (the price has grown 67 per cent between 1997 and 2001) and worsening employment stability with an average of only 12 per cent of new work offering permanent contracts. Another issue that continues to become more pronounced is the difference between average state salaries and those in the Balearics “that grow unfailingly by an average of 8.4 per cent.” While the swell of human population is being stabilised along with housing capacity, the ratio of vehicles per inhabitant, the saturation of tourist beaches, urban consumption of water and power - the surface area of protected territory is concurrently growing, as is the percentage of recycled waste.
The report leaves it clear that “the components of the balancing act required to achieve sustainability are linked with the politics of improved environmental quality that have been carried out by the public administration departments of the Balearic government, the majority of those responsible acting as part of the out-going Progressive Pact left wing coalition government between June of 1999 and May of 2003.” The analysis drew particular attention to investment made in the environment with proceeds from the tourist tax, the legal authorization of deferment of debt payment for urban projects, the promotion of public transport instead of new motorways, the setting up of natural parks and the increase of protection of endangered species. Other influences have played a part in the improvement of sustainability including decreased international financial activity, the economic freeze following the introduction of the euro and “the politics of growth of fear and global war, with the attacks of 11th September in New York and the invasion of Iraq as reference points.”