By Humphrey Carter
THE Balearic government was forced to defend its “high profile” tourism policies involving Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas and tennis star Boris Becker. This week, the government's tourism shake-up plans have been brandished as “pure spin” by political opponents in the Balearics and yesterday, Tourism Minister Joan Flaquer went on the offensive. Ever since the government took Douglas's Costa Nord cultural centre off his hands last year for 4.4 million euros, there have been doubts as to whether the money was well spent. Flaquer suggested yesterday that, at the price the government paid, which also includes Douglas promoting the Balearics at four international trade fairs, it was a bargain. Flaquer said that the true value of the property, including the brand name and the promotional film Douglas produced about the island's history, is 5.9 million euros. The Minister added that apart from the purchase of the cultural centre, the historical film, he said, will be used as a very important promotional tool. Socialist MP Antonio Diéguez is not convinced, neither by the Douglas deal nor the appearance of Boris Becker at the Balearic stand at FITUR last week. He reminded parliament that the Balearics' two new “ambassadors” have both had planning disputes with the local authorities. He also highlighted the fact that Douglas's appearance at the Balearic stand during the World Travel market in London had minimal media response overseas, the target market, and said that the Costa Nord deal was a “waste of money.” Flaquer however, maintained that the centre was not bought as a business venture but as a “centre of environmental and cultural interest.” He added that, with time, Douglas's promotional relationship with the Balearics will start to attract the attention of the international media. Flaquer also accused the leader of the opposition, Francesc Antich, of failing to have learned his lesson, despite the “awful, performance” of the tourist industry while he was Balearic president, and urged him to stop “spoiling” the region's image with his negative attitude.

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