STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
BALEARIC government spokesman, Joana Barcelo, said yesterday that the tourist industry will benefit from central government's commitment to pay 30 percent of regional airport operating fees and freeze airport taxes next year.

Speaking after a government meeting yesterday, Barcelo said that the regional government had acted swiftly in response to calls from the Balearic tourism, transport and business sectors to complain about the fact that, on Wednesday, Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced plans to double the financial aid the Canary Islands receives to help cover 30 percent of their airport operating costs, snubbing the Balearics.

According to Barcelo, the angry response from the Balearics forced the Spanish Minister for Development, Jose Blanco, to unveil a government u-turn and a similar stimulus package for the Balearics during his visit to the region on Thursday afternoon.

The Prime Minister also announced this week that airlines would have 100 percent of their monthly airport fees waived if they manage to equal or increase 2008 passenger numbers but the Association of Hotel Chains yesterday said that offer is completely unrealistic because the recession is driving passenger numbers down and there is nothing the airlines can do to reverse the trend.