Government spokesperson, Marc Pons, responded today to criticisms of the tourist tax that had been voiced at the Fitur fair in Madrid by saying that bookings were not suffering at all as a consequence of the tax to be introduced from 1 June. Far from any harm being caused, he noted that indications from Fitur were that it is certain that this coming season will be a very good one.

Pons stressed that the decision to charge the tax was unwavering, adding that its draft legislation was in process and that there would not be any turning back. He stated that the tax was a “strategic commitment” to improve the Balearics as a tourist destination. He also defended President Armengol’s presence at the fair. She attended on Wednesday but has faced criticism from the Partido Popular for not having stayed for what was the Day of the Balearic Islands on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Barceló has announced that the regional government would like a new special economic regime (REB) for the Balearics to include tax incentives to allow businesses to stay open in the off-season. “Whatever the new government of Spain, a new REB is vital for the Balearics as through this we will be able to boost and invigorate economic activity and avoid the loss of jobs in the winter.”

Barceló made his remarks following a meeting with the Balearic Confederation of Tourist Business Associations,  adding that he understood the demands emanating from the non-hotel sector that the confederation represents. “But until we have a new REB our hands are tied. It had been promised in 2015 and now the process of forming a new government is delaying it further. The Balearics need a new economic mechanism to stop the loss of money and opportunities that occurs with the passing of time.”

The vice-president noted that both PSOE and Podemos had promised that there would be a new REB during their election campaigns. “We will be paying a great deal of attention to what happens, as this is crucial for our economic, social and labour development.”

Antonio González, the president of the confederation and of the association for tourist attractions, said that he had expressed to Barceló his concerns as to what has been happening in the Balearics over the winter. “We are asking for tax incentives as a palliative for businesses which stay open during the months which are not profitable, cost a lot of money and therefore bring about losses. We want to be able to recover the tourism from November to February, and if the government helps businesses to boost their activities, there will be more jobs. It is important that we have an active and dynamic tourist destination both in the high and the low-season.”

On the tourist tax, González observed that the battle had been lost in preventing its application. “From now, therefore, we have to adopt other criteria and strategies in order to maximise returns in line with the government’s criteria for infrastructure and environmental improvement.”

Antoni Mas, the president of Pimem, the association for smaller businesses, was one business representative to voice support for the tourist tax. “A destination has a price, and as we have opted for more quality rather than quantity, then the tax is necessary. There shouldn’t be growth in the high season as this has a cost for the islands and for quality of life. Moreover, we support the limitations on development that have been recently approved. We have long called for there to be order and control of building developments in rural areas.”