London's World Travel Market is one of the main targets for Balearic government tourism promotional spend. | R.L.


There is more news on how the Balearic budget for 2017 is to be spent. Following yesterday's report which announced that government spending will be the highest ever, there is one area that will not be benefiting from the overall 10% rise in spending. And that is tourism promotion.

The Balearic Tourism Agency (ATB) is the only government "company" that will see its budget cut next year: it will go down by 2% to 19.5 million euros. To give this some context, the Ibanat natural areas agency will have its budget increased by 6% to 19.6 million euros, while the budget for the broadcaster IB3 is to rise by 5.7% to 31.3 million euros. The agency which will receive the highest budget will be Abaqua, which is responsible for water resources and management. Its spending will rise by more than 20% to 112.5 million euros.

The cut to the ATB budget comes at the end of a tourism season which was characterised by all the talk of "saturation" and so of too many tourists overcrowding beaches, roads and town centres (well, Palma anyway). There had been suggestions, notably from Podemos, that all tourism promotion should be stopped, meaning that nothing should be spent on it. By doing so, Podemos believe, numbers of tourists will decline.

The ATB budget of 19.5 million, it needs pointing out, is not all destined to be spent on direct promotional efforts. The budget for this in 2016 was in the region of 3.5 million euros, with promotion focused on travel fairs, blogger and fam trips and similar exercises. There is room for additional campaigns, while the agency does also fund certain projects, such as one for cycling routes.

It might also be noted that tourism responsibilities are being devolved to the island councils, so they will also be engaged in some island-specific promotional activity. In the case of Majorca, though, this devolution of power has yet to be fully realised.

The curiosity in all this is that there is a budget item in 2017 for 60 million euros (minimum) revenue from the tourist tax. This corresponds to one-sixth of the overall rise in spending next year: 360 million euros more. Where the spending of the tax is concerned, it is - theoretically anyway - separate to the ATB budget allocation. But as most, if not all, the tax revenue from this year is being earmarked for water and environmental projects (we won't know precisely what the projects will be until next month), then tourism promotion will miss out.

This said, the scope for tax revenue to be used for promotional purposes is specific. One of the five "purposes" of revenue spend, and the only one to make any mention of promotion, states: "the promotion of activities to tackle seasonality, the creation and realisation of workable tourist products for the low season and promotion of sustainable tourism and the low season."

Of some other aspects of the budget, there are to be two new public bodies. One is for telecommunications and innovation, which mainly seems to be for promoting audiovisual services. The second, Illenc, will promote research in all areas of culture and science, Catalan language training and the promotion of the Catalan language. The transparency, culture and sports ministry, which has responsibility for "linguistic normalisation", is to receive some three million euros for projects to do with this normalisation, meaning the use of Catalan.

Salaries for senior politicians are frozen for next year. For President Armengol this is just over 65,500 euros before tax. It is in fact one of the lowest salaries for a regional president in Spain. Only three presidents of the seventeen regions earn less: those of Andalusia, Asturias and Cantabria. The highest earner is Carles Puigdemont in Catalonia. His salary is more than double what Armengol earns.

Ministers' salaries pre-tax will be almost 58,000.