By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
WITH just four months to go before the municipal elections, the (FEHM) Majorcan Hotel Federation yesterday spelt out to all of the political parties what it wants to see from the next government, be it a continuation of the Socialist-led coalition or a new Partido Popular legislature.

Federation president, Marilen Pol, made it crystal clear what the sector wants with two principal demands.
The first being which ever party or parties form the new government, tourism is reestablished as the most important sector for the island.
Secondly, the federation wants new tourism policies introduced which will pave the way for a single body in charge of tourism and not four different ministries, councils and departments as has become the case during this current legislature.

Pol stressed yesterday that the best and most effective way of dragging the Balearics out of the recession is to provide more help and assistance to the hotel and tourism sector because it is the main dynamo of the local economy and job sector.

The federation appears to feel that over recent years, tourism has not been given the adequate support and investment it requires to compete with emerging domestic and overseas destinations.

What is more, Pol said that the government needs to give the hotel sector a face lift by getting rid of out of date and obsolete establishments and if it means using the law of forced expropriations, “so be it”.

She also said that a new Minister for Tourism has to be much more responsible and warned that the region can not afford to go through the embarrassing experience of having four different ministers for tourism since 2007. “It's had a negative effect on the sector at home and overseas and does not instill much confidence in the market,” she said. Assessing the performance of the current government over the past four years, Pol said that the continual instability within the Ministry for Tourism has had a detrimental effect on the industry and she went on to claim that the so-called interdepartmental commission and certain promotional campaigns have failed. “The priority of the next government has got to be tourism,” Pol underlined. “We need a ministry with more powers, more political weight and a much bigger budget,” adding that all decisions taken by the various different ministries have got to have the best interests of tourism at heart.

For example, there needs to be new limits and restrictions on urban development and a greater emphasis on developing and improving an infrastructure which will favour and encourage low season tourism such as the golf courses and the nautical sector so hampered by the matriculation tax.

She also said that tourism has to be taken into account when expanding the island's public transport system although Pol stressed the need to significantly improve air transport.

She disapproves of the airport privatisation plan and hopes that the new government will quickly address this problem so that the local business and tourism industries will be given a role in running Palma airport so that new routes can be easily launched and that Son San Joan airport can be transformed into a much larger connecting flight hub.

She said that it is going to be “absolutely crucial” for any new government to get its priorities right and that tourism is placed at the very top of the agenda. “The hotel sector is suffering more than ever. “It's performing worse than four years ago and much worse than ten years ago,” she stressed yesterday. “The key to reactivating the local economy is going to be tourism and that is why, at a moment so critical as this, any new government has got to make tourism its maximum priority,” Pol said.

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