By Humphrey Carter THE first of the 360'000 Green Cards the Balearics intends to sell this year went on sale on Sunday. Offering a wide range of discounts and special gifts at museums, fun parks, galleries, stately homes, natural parks, savings on public transport and a reduced-rate 15 minute international telephone call, the 15-day cards for tourists have been warmly welcomed by holidaymakers. So far, the leading tour operators have yet to make any mass purchases. Nevertheless, the Balearic Minister for Tourism, Joan Flaquer believes that over 360'000 of the cards which cost 10 euros, will be sold this year. The resident card will come into operation within the next two months and is valid for a year. Of the 10 euros, seven goes to the Foundation for the Sustainable Development of the Balearics which will invest the extra funds into the protection and management of the region's environment and heritage. For example, plans have already been drawn up for a salt and arts and crafts museum as well as important improvements to visitor facilities at the Albufera natural park on the outskirts of Alcudia. What is more, this year, one euro from every card sold will be donated to the tsunami recovery efforts in South East Asia. Flaquer has denied that the card is the Balearic government's alternative to the controversial tourist tax introduced by the previous left-wing government and scrapped on this government's return to power. The main difference is that the Green card is voluntary, “no one is being forced to buy it, unlike hotel and self-catering guests who were forced to pay the tourist tax,” he says. Hotels, tourist offices, car hire firms and even some airlines will be selling the card. The Balearic government wants to have the cards on sale at as many outlets as possible across the Balearics, as quickly as possible. The Green Card comes with a pack full of all the necessary information on how to activate the card and where the card can be used. The pack also includes a map of whichever island the purchaser is staying on. The Balearic government have pulled out all the stops to promote the Green Card with Michael Douglas and Claudia Schiffer having helped to boost the initiative at the Madrid and Berlin tourism fairs. Tourism Minister Flaquer has said that, while the target is to sell 360'000 cards this year, the Foundation is ready to give the order for more to be produced should there be an increase in demand. The year-long card for residents, which should be available by the end of June, will cost the same but will not include the 15 minute cheap rate international phone call.



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