Staff reporter

BALEARIC Tourism minister and local government spokesman, Joan Flaquer, gave assurances yesterday that the newly formed cabinet “doesn't have ready and waiting” any substitute for the tourist tax. Although this tax is likely to be withdrawn, Flaquer guaranteed that the investment in the environment which it facilitated will be maintained or, if possible, increased. Flaquer was speaking at a press conference following the first full meeting of the new government at which some thirty senior officials were appointed.
He made reference to dispensing with the burdensome eco-tax or so-called “Tourist Tax” which had been established by the previous government, the Progressive Pact coalition. The minister for tourism confirmed that the new government is made up of a party “used to fulfilling its promises”, and is therefore now obliged to phase out this tax. Before proceeding however, consultations will be made with representatives from the Tourist Board, as promised by the new head of the Balearic government, Jaume Matas. Whilst admitting that “at this particular point in time we don't have any planned alternative” for replacing the income that will be lost when the tourist tax is dispensed with, the Minister announced that not only will the Balearic Government maintain investment made in the environment, but that “if possible”, it will be increased. “We are convinced that the relationship of tourism with the environment is absolutely essential for the economy of these islands and thus the issues go hand in hand. The fact that the tax will be dispensed with does not mean that the philosophy which was perhaps behind it, has to go as well. Investment in the environment will be made because it is a pre-requisite of tourism.” Nevertheless, the minister wanted it to be clear that the investments to be made by the new government, controlled by the Partido Popular, will be unequivocably for the benefit of the environment. He alluded to the fact that there are “some” who “purported to be supporting the environment under the umbrella of this tax, but in reality the funds went to areas that had nothing to do with the environment. We're going to correct that scenario.” Although he said he couldn't give any advance notice on what would be the investment policy in the environment, Flaquer was of the opinion that “we don't believe that buying houses in the centre of Palma will be the place where such funds end up. “This doesn't mean that we can't buy historically important buildings” he added, “but such a move would be made within a different area of financing.” Flaquer finished by giving assurances that the present government “will lose very little time” checking the previous tourism ministry's books.

Hotel sector has “full confidence” in Flaquer

THE newly appointed minister for tourism in the Balearics, Joan Flaquer, received public support yesterday from the President of the Sol Melià hotel group, Gabriel Escarrer, who greatly valued open dialogue with the Minister and gave assurances that the hotel sector had full confidence in him. Flaquer, who yesterday morning was at the offices of the ministry to which he has been appointed, will work in collaboration with Eduardo Gamero, Director General of Co-ordination, and with Josep Aloy as Director General of Planning. It may be remembered that in the days prior to the naming of Flaquer as minister, rumours were circulating involving both these names so from the start, one knew that Aloy would have a senior position in one of the most important government offices. The position of Managing Director of the Institute for Tourist Promotion in the Balearics (Ibatur) will be taken by Juan Carlos Alia, spokesman for World of Tui and director of this major German organization.