By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE Balearic tourism, retail and business sectors yesterday reacted angrily to the decision by the Spanish government to increase its share of the airport landing fees it helps the Canaries pay from 15 to 30 percent while ignoring the needs of the Balearics.

The financial stimulus package was unveiled by the Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who explained that the decision was taken to help the Canaries meet its rising transport costs caused by the credit crisis and ease the financial burden on airlines serving the islands.

However, here in the Balearics, the business and tourism community considered the announcement as a snub to the region which suffers from similar transport problems and costs as the Canaries.

The Canary Islands' aid package which will apply to landing, passenger and security fees is going to come into force on July 1 and run for the six months ending on December 31 but, if it proves successful, may be continued for another six months.

The President of the Confederation of Business Association, Josep Oliver, said that the prime Minister's decisions is “totally unacceptable. “We live in an insular region of Spain and have exactly the same rights as the Canaries. This is a clear case of discrimination,” he said yesterday.
Juan Cabrera, the head of the Small Business Federation PIMEM said: “Yet again, we've been ignored and that's with a regional government of the same party.” The Director of the Majorcan Chamber of Commerce said that the measures have come far too late and will have very little affect. “At this stage of the crisis, the government should be postponing the payment of airport landing and operating fees.” However, there was some good news for the airline industry serving Spain . including the Balearics. The Prime Minister also yesterday proposed 240 million euros a year in support to airlines, the latest in a flood of initiatives to combat the country's worst recession in 60 years. Airlines would have 100 percent of their monthly airport fees waived if they manage to equal or increase 2008 passenger numbers. “The airlines now have an incentive (to raise passenger volumes) throughout Spain,” Zapatero told Congress.
Spanish passenger traffic in March plunged 18.9 percent year on year, figures from airports operator AENA showed, as recession-hit travellers cut back on travel.

Spain is expected to be the last European Union member to return to growth, probably in 2011, according to the European Commission.
Spain's tourism industry, the second largest in the world, is feeling the pinch as the global recession keeps foreign visitors, such as British and German tourists, at home while Spaniards rein in restaurant and hotel spending.

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