Matilde Asián saying that the attorney-general will be investigating anti-tourism protests. | Archive

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The tourism secretary-of-state, Matilde Asián, said yesterday that tourismphobia could damage Spain's tourism strength. The government has therefore instructed the state attorney-general to take action against attacks on tourism. An open debate on the model of tourism is legitimate, she noted, but these attacks can never be justified.

Tourism is very sensitive, and so any action generates a reaction and consequences. She therefore urged different public administrations to support an industry that creates wealth and employment. "Debate and dialogue yes, but never violent actions."

"Ideally, this conduct would be prevented. But once it occurs, it must be investigated. If there is any indication of a crime, it needs to be punished."

The future of Spain, she stated, lies with tourism. With regard to tour operator anxieties as to tourist "massification" and the diversion of tourists to other destinations, she said that the "hen of the golden eggs is not about to be killed". Spain's potential goes far beyond sun and beach destinations.

There are many areas that need opportunities from tourism, especially regions in the country's interior, she noted. It is the case, she accepted, that the likes of Barcelona and Palma, because of their attractiveness for sun and beach and the number of tourists they get, need to work to promote coexistence between tourists and residents.

She expressed her opposition to so-called moratoria, limits to tourist accommodation places and tourist taxes. "Yes, I agree with certain specific control but this must always take into account the benefits of tourism for generating wealth and employment. This is something that cannot be played with, " she observed, noting that powers for tourism have been transferred (to the regions) and need to be respected.

Asián expressed her willingness for there to be a debate about Spain's tourism model, though she has not as yet given a date for a meeting of the Spanish Tourism Council: something which parts of the industry have been urging. "There is a debate about the model in certain regions and it can count on the cooperation of the government."