Staff Reporter THE Balearic leader, Jaume Matas was confident yesterday that the change of government in the Islands following last May's regional elections was “the turning point” in the recovery of the tourist industry. The previous government, claimed Matas, had brought the market “to the edge of the abyss”. After his attendance at a Popular Party meeting on tourism which was brought to a close by Mariano Rajoy, successor to Prime Minister José María Aznar, the Balearic leader spoke of the “desolate panorama” that greeted him in the tourist industry when he assumed his post in regional goverment following the elections.

He warned of the damage that other similar Socialist “coalition” projects could do in Spain and which even now, are lying in wait.
Matas believed, however, that “the lesson of the past four years” in the Balearics “should serve as an antidote”.
He highlighted the fact that the policies of the “Balearic Socialist coalition, prisoners of their own contradictions”, had managed to produce a negative figure for the Gross Balearic Product of 0.6 percent; to reduce income from tourism by as much as 12 percent; and seriously damage the image of the region in Germany, the island's key client market. He furthered that 800'000 German tourists had stopped coming to the Balearics, convinced that the Islands, at best, just about “managed to put up with” tourists. He scoffed at the fact that “the solution” to this situation provided by the previous government was to “punish them (the tourists) with a tax: the ecotax” (raised to collect funds for environmental protection). In the judgement of Matas, imposing a tax was an “absurd method of promoting tourism”, and when the Popular Party came to power on May 14 last, “we inherited all the problems”. He explained that once the elections had been won, his government had had to work “extremely hard” and the first step undertaken was the repeal of the ecotax. “Bridges of understanding had to be built” with the business community, and the establishing of a permanent line of contact with the tour operators had to be pioneered. All that, said Matas, “as well as having to reassure key client markets that the tourist is indeed welcome in the Balearics”. On a positive note, he confirmed that thanks to the political action of his government, the sector had reacted “in an extraordinarily positive way”. Industry confidence has been recuperated and the business climate has begun to change. He pointed out that amongst other regional government objectives was the improvement of the tourist product through means of upgraded services and infrastructure, and through developing alternative sporting and cultural attractions.