By Humphrey Carter

AHEAD of today's meeting to discuss the future of the tourist tax, the Balearic Business Confederation said yesterday that it will push ahead with the argument for scrapping the controversial levy. Confederation president Josep Oliver said that the organisation's members, which include the Majorcan hotel sector, have unanimously backed the proposal to ditch the tax completely, but he added that they will not be putting forward any alternative measure of raising extra funds for environmental protection and management. Today's tourist tax summit has been organised by Balearic leader, Jaume Matas who, although apparently equally as keen to scrap the tax, wants to discuss the situation with the local tourism and business sector. The Balearic business sector has been opposed to the tax from the very start and has welcomed the local government's determination to try and solve some of the many problems facing the Balearic tourist sector as quickly as possible. “We were the first to speak out against the tax some four years ago”, Oliver said “even before it was revealed how the money would be collected.” As far as the Confederation is concerned, “you can't go around taxing clients, especially when no other region of Spain has introduced such a tax. “This tax should never have been enforced,” he said.
As far as finding an alternative to the tax is concerned, that, Oliver said, is an issue for the Balearic government.
The hotel sector has suggested that residents living in natural park areas or eco-zones be made to help meet the costs of environmental protection.
Oliver said that his organisation is prepared to discuss whatever proposals are put forward in order to try and find positive solutions.
However, many members of the business community believe that any extra environmental funds should come from general taxes, either in the form of a greater return on taxes paid by the Balearics to Madrid or from the Balearic coffers. “Any additional taxes for business or even our clients is bad for business, as we have seen,” Oliver said. A wide range of tourism issues will be discussed today as the government tries to save this summer season and boost peak season bookings.

Hoteliers looking at the globa picture
THE Majorcan Hotel Federation fears that the problem the Balearic tourist industry faces has become so serious that the tourist tax is just part of the crisis. The president of the Hotel Federation, Pere Cañellas, who will also be attending today's tourism summit, said yesterday that an urgent and concerted effort needs to be made to improve the island's damaged image. “We need to launch a major publicity campaign in all areas to also fend off stiff competition from other destinations,” he said. “The situation and problems we face have grown so much that the tourist tax is now just part of the problem,” said Pere Cañellas.
What he did make clear however is that the Hotel Federation, which broke off relations will the previous government over the tax and its attitude to hoteliers, is prepared to listen to and negotiate with the new government. But Pere Cañellas appears to have clear in his mind what immediate steps need to be taken, such as improving infrastructure, the launch of a major overseas publicity campaign and a drive to remind the Balearic public just how important tourists and tourism are to the region's economy, jobs and livelihood. The mere fact that Matas will today bring the government, hoteliers and business people together around the same table for talks is a major step forward. The breakdown in relations between hoteliers and the government over the past four years failed to help the region's tourist industry, especially when bookings started to fall and the German market melted away. Now, with the new government, the Balearic tourist industry is looking forward to presenting a united front and setting to work and righting the wrongs which the previous left wing government has been, and still is being, blamed for.