Tourism minister Biel Barceló, President Armengol, and finance minister Catalina Cladera at the announcement of the tourist tax last week.

14-10-2015Joan Torres

There were really only two words to sum up last week - tourist tax. Whatever else was going on, certainly in terms of the island's tourism, this was the topic that overshadowed everything.

The tourist tax became official
Last Sunday, the ground was being laid for the official announcement of the tax later in the week. The regional government had issued its forecast for tax revenues in 2016. Among the various numbers was a figure for "other taxes", 50 million euros of which were to come from the tourist tax. Meanwhile, we were being told that Madrid was "dragging its heels" over arranging a meeting at which the tax was to be discussed as well as the government's wish for a 30 euro flat-rate tariff for inter-island flights. With Madrid apparently disinclined to talk about either, the government's preference for the tourist tax being collected at ports and airports was getting nowhere (if indeed it ever stood a chance of getting anywhere). The tax will therefore have to be collected via accommodation, though once the announcement was made, the ways of doing this were far from clear in certain instances.

The official announcement was made on Wednesday, and so in the Thursday edition we reported that the government was looking at raising 80 million euros for the tax (despite the budget having included a lower provision). As has consistently been the case with the tax, explanations as to its purpose were again contradictory. Tourism minister Barceló said it would be for environmental conservation and historical and cultural preservation, but then proceeded to list various other applications which appeared to conflict with these. Suggestions that the tax might benefit the hotel sector were sat on by Podemos. This could "never be accepted" and so would, if Podemos were to have their way, rule out applications for improving resort infrastructure, which supposedly is to be a key beneficiary of the tax. The environmentalists GOB expressed their "disappointment" at the tax having "far less ecological focus than the eco-tax (of 2002)".


The political and business reaction
Businesses were less than impressed. On Friday, further reactions were reported, and while the Majorca Hoteliers Federation felt that there would not be an immediate effect, it was concerned that the tax would lead to a loss of competitiveness and investment. In Minorca, the federation there was more to the point: "it could sink us". Marga Prohens for the opposition Partido Popular slammed the tax and the attitude of the government. For the parties of the left, she said, "a tourist is not a friend, he or she is someone who is a nuisance", a remark which led Jason Moore to observe that such a headline-grabbing statement could be "very dangerous" were it to be picked up on by foreign media. Of other comment in the paper, Andrew Ede wondered whether Podemos's desire to see the tax go only to environmental applications might ultimately render the tax "politically untenable" on account of differences of opinion among the three parties of government as to its use.


Winter flights and Magalluf
Otherwise, there was some encouraging news on the winter flights issue, with the reporting on Friday of Jet2 Holidays' inclusion of Palma in their new city-break destination product; Palma being one of five Spanish cities selected to feature as part of this product. Flights from Leeds-Bradford, Manchester and Edinburgh are expected to add a further 10,000 places from February next year. Earlier in the week there had been praise for the way in which Magalluf was changing its face, and it came from the national government delegate in the Balearics, Teresa Palmer. At a presentation to mark the 12 October public holiday, one aspect of which is that it is the day for the Guardia Civil to be honoured, she referred to the efforts of the force in contributing to the "radical change" that had taken place in Magalluf.


Sue Lloyd Roberts
On a very different note, it was with great sadness that we learned of the death of BBC journalist Sue Lloyd Roberts, who passed away on Tuesday, a stem cell transplant for tackling her leukemia having developed complications. On Thursday, Donald Trelford paid tribute to one of Majorca's "most distinguished residents", she and her husband Nick having settled in Fornalutx, where they bought a boutique hotel in 2002.

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