Vice-president and minister for tourism, Biel Barcelo announcing the approval of the tax draft today.

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As had been signalled earlier in the week, the Balearic government today approved the draft text for the law on the sustainable tourism tax. This draft, having been given the cabinet’s green light, will now pass to parliament for debate prior to approval of the final bill. It is anticipated that, once the parliamentary process has been completed, the tax will come into effect on 1 June.
As the introduction of the tax is being treated as urgent, parliament will begin to consider the draft legislation on Monday next week.

The announcement by the government revealed no more than was already known, to which had been added modifications that were outlined earlier in the week: the age of exemption being 16 and under; 50% reduction after ten days; the full rate to apply between May and October. The rate will vary, depending on season and type of accommodation, from 25 cents to two euros per day per tourist. The government anticipates, in a full year of application, to raise some 80 million euros of revenue from the tax, with this year’s revenue estimated to be 50 million.

Vice-President Biel Barceló, also the tourism minister, said of the tax that it was a social demand on behalf of a majority of citizens who had voted for change (at the regional election last spring). Noting that there has been and remains opposition from business, especially the hoteliers, he added that the debate regarding the tax had been “more social” than that which had surrounded the eco-tax that was approved in 2001 and implemented in 2002 (only to be scrapped the following year). Things have changed since 2001, he suggested, when the eco-tax had been pioneering. There are now similar taxes in regions or cities in almost half the member states of the European Union.

On any possible legal challenge to the tax - one that the hoteliers have raised as a possibility - the finance minister, Catalina Cladera, observed that the tourist tax in Catalonia had been taken before the courts and that they had endorsed it. She and the government are, therefore, relaxed about any legal challenge.

The tax will be aimed at a variety of purposes: natural protection; tackling tourism seasonality; the development of tourism infrastructure; recovery of cultural heritage; research and development projects; training in the tourism sector; investment in social and health facilities.

The government is due to conduct an information campaign through tour operators that will advise tourists as to what the charges will be.