STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
SPAIN'S Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said yesterday at a special cabinet meeting held in Palma that the Balearic Islands are going to receive a considerable slice of a 1'000 million tourism industry investment package.

With the tourist industry being the economic lifeblood of the Balearic Islands and a key source of revenue for Central Government, the money is to be used to overhaul and modernise existing infrastructure and give a new cutting edge to the country's competitivity with other holiday destinations.

Zapatero said after the cabinet meeting that the aid package named “Plan Renove” had started its life as a 400 million boost to tourist areas of the country in need of a facelift but owing to the strong demand by industry leaders including hotel chains, Central Government added another 600 million. The Prime Minister said that Spain is a “world leader” in tourism and ranks 2nd or 3rd in terms of numbers of foreign visitors to its shores each year. “The Balearics,” he added “plays a key role in an industry which accounts for 11 percent of the country's Gross Product and which employs 2 million people.” It is representative of the importance that Spain attaches to tourism, said Zapatero that the government had created the separate ministerial post of Secretary of State for Tourism, a position currently held by Joan Mesquida, a Majorcan. “To speak of tourism is to a large extent to speak of the Balearics,” said Zapatero “so what better place to hold a cabinet meeting to discuss our solutions for the industry itself.” He added that the overhaul of the Playa de Palma, which is to receive 10 million euros from Central Government will be “held up as an example to the rest of the country.” But Josep Oliver, the President of the Balearic Business Confederation (CAEB) saw fit to comment later that whilst he was glad that 78 million euros was being allocated to modernisation programmes in the Balearics, he felt that given the enormity of the expense involved in the Playa de Palma remodelling programme, 10 million euros really wasn't very much money at all.

Zapatero continued by speaking of the ways in which his government is to improve existing tourist infrastructure and to introduce new attractions in the form of cultural and business tourism. “Catering for all tastes,” was the expression he used to announce that 9 million pounds alone is to be spent on promoting and developing “food and wine” tourism. The strategy is designed, he said to deseasonalise the industry - “people can be offered attractions all year round in Spain” he added.

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