THE Balearic minister for tourism, Joan Flaquer, told Parliament yesterday that tourists spent more last year in the Balearic Islands, an increase of 3.3 percent in comparison to 2003, according to the first figures released from the Tourist Spending Survey (Egatur) that was carried out by the Secretary of State for Tourism. He also added that last year saw the start of the recovery of tourism in the islands and that this was backed by all relevant studies and figures.
He was answering a question by Socialist spokesman and former tourism chief Celestí Alomar, who asked about recent claims by Balearic University professor Eugeni Aguiló, who alleged that there had been a drop in the amount that tourists spend, of between 3.5 and 4.5 percent in 2004. Flaquer, who expressed his “utmost respect” for Aguiló, said that the Ministry for Tourism had not commissioned a survey from him.
This work, he said, was done by the Tourism Studies Institute, which also carried out comparative studies for other regions in Spain.
Alomar claimed that the tourism sector in the Balearic Islands has turned into “a bad business”, because “for the first time in history” there are more tourists on the islands and less income. He said that it is unfortunate that the Government does not use any of the research that has been done on tourist spending habits by the Balearic University (UIB). In answer to a question from Miquel Ramon, United Left-Greens (EU-EV) spokesman, Flaquer went on to say the green card, which has just been introduced, will finance certain tourism development projects. These projects are currently being decided by the Balearic Foundation for Sustainable Development. The money made by the green cards will not be used to buy “illegal flats in order to then demolish them, nor houses that fall down in Palma”, said the Minister, making reference to some of the projects that were funded by the unpopular tourist tax. He added that the tax “had not needed to be changed or redeveloped, it only needed to be eliminated”.
The green card was described as a “decaffeinated substitute for the tourist tax” by Miquel Ramón, who said that it is a great shame that the Government has still not made public the estimated income of the green cards or the environmental projects that will be carried out by this new tourism project. “When you deduct the costs for management and the costs for marketing of the green card, there will be hardly any money left for anything”, said Ramón. He also stressed that this project, which offers discounts to holders, should be considered “a big con”.