By Humphrey Carter

THE President of the Balearics, Francesc Antich joined the attack on Germany from the European airline and travel industry over its plans to impose an air travel tax.

Antich echoed comments made by Airline industry body IATA which warned that the proposal should be axed. “It is the wrong measure at the wrong time,” it stressed and Antich fears that the tax will not only hit the airline industry it will also have a negative affect on the Balearic tourist industry which is primarily driven by the German and UK markets. “It can't have any positive outcome because it will make travelling more expensive for our potential clients. “I just can't understand a move like this being taken under the current circumstances with the airline and travel industries continuing to struggle,” Antich said yesterday. “European airlines are already having to pay the highest eco taxes in the world but in the wake of the volcanic ash crisis, which cost the carriers millions of euros in losses, they are also facing huge compensation claims,” the Balearic President said. “The decision by the German government makes no sense at all,” he added.
IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce told reporters this week; “The most vulnerable part of the industry is in Europe. “The last thing the industry here in Europe needs is additional taxes and measures that will slow down economic growth.”

The world's airlines had their worst year ever in 2009, when demand dropped faster than capacity could be cut as companies and consumers shrank travel budgets to weather the global economic crisis.

The Americas and Asia-Pacific have started to recover, but Europe's airlines have been dogged by airspace closures, labour strikes and a weakening of the euro. “European airlines are facing a pretty difficult time with weak economies and governments seeking to generate revenues,” Pearce said.
Analysts and industry associations estimate the proposed tax could raise the price of air travel by an average 8-14 euros per ticket.
Antich held a meeting yesterday with the hotel, travel and business sector to discuss developing new tourism markets.
The first Siberian Airlines direct weekly flight from Moscow, where the Balearics is going to have two representatives working at the Spanish Tourist Office, landed in Majorca on Friday and Antich is not ruling out making an official visit to Poland, Ukraine and Serbia in order to boost efforts by the local tourist industry to break into these new markets.

The German air tax is only going to force the Balearics to look for new markets and while Antich said yesterday that the region's traditional customers in the UK, France, Italy, Germany and mainland Spain, the emphasis has got to be on looking to expand the Balearics' international profile.

The government is also considering taking part in a visit the Majorcan Chamber of Commerce is making to China in September and use it as a vehicle to promote Balearic tourism in the Far East.