Measures to improve hotels’ business

REPRESENTATIVES of the Majorca Hoteliers Federation have been in Madrid this week, meeting national government representatives and setting out measures which it believes are needed for the hotel sector. The most significant measures that its president Aurelio Vázquez proposed were those which would amount to a Special Regime for Touristic Accommodation (REAT). They would include reductions in corporate tax in order to help with greater investment not just in hotels but also in resorts, a reduction in IVA to the super-reduced rate of 4%, limits on local taxation and so therefore reductions in local property taxes. Vázquez also proposed adjustments to social security payments during periods of lower occupancy, i.e. the off-season.

None of these proposals were new, as the hoteliers, and not only in Majorca, have been calling for them for some time. It should be noted, however, that regardless of what national government does, certain regional governments have gone some way in adopting such measures, e.g. on property taxes. The Balearics have not.

Vázquez’s proposals were set in the context of what he explained had been a 5% reduction in hotel occupancy (across Spain) in 2013, a real drop in tourist revenues of up to 10,000 million euros last year but also an increase of 15% in hotel capacity. He then went on to reiterate the opposition of the Majorcan hoteliers to any relaxation in the use of private apartments as tourist accommodation.

He said that the federation was not against this type of accommodation but against a move which might create "undercover" hotels. He reckoned that if all private accommodation that might fit the tourist accommodation "model" were to be made available in the Balearics, this would result in there being six million additional tourists. Which might sound like good news, but Vázquez was at pains to point out that the success of such accommodation lay with its reduced prices and that it attracted clients with less spend capacity in search of a low-cost product.

I imagine that this last part would be something with which many of you would take issue. It does not follow that tourists in private accommodation have lower spend capacity. Indeed, it is quite the contrary. Moreover, I would suggest that it is something of an insult for Sr. Vázquez to even imply that tourists who go private are in some way of lesser quality, especially when the stock in trade of some all-inclusive hotels (not all) is quite clearly an economy market with lower spend.

Catalonia’s key system for apartments

THIS attitude is of course all in marked contrast with that in Catalonia. The tourism ministry there has now confirmed the system of classification that will apply to private accommodation. It will be a key system, ranging from one key to five keys, depending, for example, on facilities the property offers and "complementary" services. An owner, in order to obtain official recognition for a classification, will have to pay 144 euros. But if there is more than one property in the same building, the second or other apartments would cost 50% less. All very different in Catalonia to how things are in the Balearics, therefore. And what is more is that Catalonia will be promoting this system as part of the "value added" of a quality tourist destination. The attitude is the complete opposite to that which Sr. Vázquez has. Catalonia does not denigrate the private accommodation tourist, and as it is going to be promoting this accommodation, the Balearics may well really suffer. It might be noted that Sr. Vázquez, although the federation’s president, remains the CEO for Spain and the Mediterranean at Iberostar. Prior to joining Iberostar, he was with Riu. He is, therefore, someone firmly aligned with the big hotel chains’ interests in Majorca.

Targets for unions’ protests

Iberostar,meanwhile, has been singled out this week, along with Barceló, as the main target for protests to be arranged by the UGT and CCOO unions against the hoteliers’ stance on pay negotiations. The unions, unless there is some give in the negotiations, plans to stage protests outside the headquarters of both chains in June. These negotiations still appear to be going nowhere, although the hoteliers have shifted slightly in that they are talking not of a "freeze" in salaries but of "moderation". The unions, for their part, are still talking about possible strikes in the high season, while the PSOE opposition in the Balearic Parliament has accused the tourism ministry of not taking any interest in the potential for strikes.

Tourism plans in Majorcan towns

SOME towns in Majorca have presented their latest tourism plans. In Manacor, where there is sun-and-beach tourism of course, they are looking to push rural tourism as well through their association, Ruralcor. A new four-language guide has been produced which details different types of rural accommodation. Key markets for agrotourism in the municipality are the Germanic ones of Germany itself, Switzerland and Austria.

Sant Joan is a town which is rather hidden. It is easy to bypass it en route to Manacor from Palma, so the town hall wants to make the town better known and also to try and get the town’s traffic system improved. Among initiatives that will be instituted will be the use of QR codes for information as to cultural and gastronomy routes in the town. Petra, which is one of Sant Joan’s neighbours, has presented its logo, a local designer having won 300 euros in a competition to come up with it. The logo carries the slogan "the essence of the plain".

Increased hotel capacity in Gran Canaria

AWAY from the Balearics, in Gran Canaria the council there has plans to increase the number of hotel beds by 50,000. Currently, there are 130,000 beds, and the increase would raise the annual number of tourists by around one million. The increased capacity would be in four and five-star hotels. It wouldn’t appear to mean the building of new hotels, as there is, in effect, a moratorium on such buildings, as there also is in the Balearics where any new hotel is supposed to take the place of an existing one. And one new hotel that is now really causing a headache is the Hyatt in Canyamel. The extraordinary complexity of land and building regulations, and specifically those that stemmed from the 1991 Law on Natural Spaces, lies at the heart of objections to the construction, and it would appear to all be the fault of an error that was made in mapping the natural area of special interest in 1991. Despite the challenge to the construction, Capdepera Town Hall insists that all is legal and above board.