Hotel chambermaids are deserving of health treatment, but is this a "purpose" for the tourist tax? | Archive

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Airport night flights and strikes
The airport was once more the focus of attention. Palma's councillor for ecology, Neus Truyol, sent a letter to the ministry of development which requested an end to flights between 11pm and 6am.

The industry reacted by saying that a night-flight ban would affect the number of airline bases that have increased at the airport. There would also be an impact on services such as DHL. Air Europa suggested that the town hall hadn't taken account of the economic consequences.

Reader reaction, both on the website and on Facebook, was generally negative as well. But some of it was framed in the wider context of various issues that concern visitors (and indeed some residents), such as the tourist tax, the rentals' legislation and anti-tourism protests.

The possibility of strike action at Spain's airports, so not just Palma, offered a further opportunity for criticism of Balearic government policy and of an atmosphere being created which suggests that tourists are being made to feel unwelcome. The airport strikes may be averted - there is due to be a meeting this week - and Aena said that it was broadly in agreement with demands for increased pay. The problem that the airports authority has lies with restrictions on public sector pay imposed by the national ministry of finance. The Spanish government, for now, still has a majority shareholding in Aena.


The pressures on holiday prices
Something else which is concerning tourists is the increase in holiday prices. We reported that tour operator contracts with Majorca's hoteliers for 2018 are being affected by the prices being demanded by the hoteliers. The number fully signed and sealed is currently way down on last year. In fact, it was said that the number is unprecedented.

The hoteliers have been upping prices because of the increased demand caused by insecurity in other Mediterranean destinations and also because of their investments in improving quality. The tour operators, we observed, have been placed in a situation which historically hasn't been usual. They have long held the whip hand when it comes to price negotiations but have been acceding to demands for higher prices in order to ensure supply of beds. The situation is now changing, with the other destinations recovering.

There may well be a further factor in hotel prices. Wage negotiations for the sector are to commence over the winter. The hoteliers, who said last week that they are "sensitive" to demands for higher pay, are under increasing pressure from the government to meet these demands. The unions stated that they are looking at around ten per cent more.


The tourist tax
And then there was the tourist tax. It has been known for some time that there will be an adjustment in 2018, and this was confirmed last week. At present it isn't known exactly what this might entail. An increase in the tax rate may not apply across the board, just to specific accommodation categories. Meanwhile, though, and as we noted, Podemos are lurking in the background with their requirements for agreeing the government's 2018 budget. And these requirements may well be reflected in any tourist tax increase.


Resort bus services and transparency
Back at the airport and it was revealed that the companies which operate the resort bus services introduced in the spring could be compensated by the government if they don't reach budgeted turnover targets. One of the taxi drivers' associations said that it had requested documentation related to the bus companies' contracts but that this request had been blocked by the government's transparency department. Other associations, and not just taxi drivers, expressed their outrage both at the lack of transparency and at the possible compensation.

We took the view that there was a whiff of scandal. The taxi drivers were absolutely right in pointing out that the government had said that the bus companies would assume all risks for the services. We also noted that there had been no comment from the government. There still hasn't been any comment.

And while on the matter of transparency, we wondered how a government proposal to use tourist tax revenue for treating hotel chambermaid occupational disorders fitted in with the so-called "purposes" for spending the revenue. It was difficult to find any "purpose" in the tourist tax legislation that makes provision for this treatment.