Mercedes Garrido, responsible for the rentals map. Biel Barceló announced he would be staying on as a member of parliament.

25-07-2017Pere J. Bergas

Tourist tax war
A tourist tax "war" apparently broke out between the Balearics and Greece. The war was one-sided. It was the Balearics which were beating the battle drums, although a letter from the tourism ministry to Abta and its German equivalent, DRV, amounted to no more than a minor pre-emptive strike. The letter explained that "revenues from the tax are primarily invested in environmental protection projects in order to substantially reduce these impacts and preserve our territory". The Greeks, meanwhile, have introduced a tax designed merely to swell the state's coffers.

The letter was the latest attempt by the Balearic government to justify its tourist tax. We took the view that the government does at least deserve some plaudits for trying to explain, even if its communications have been pretty lousy. The letter provided another example of this. As had been the case with ex-tourism minister Biel Barceló, the letter insisted on drawing attention to the percentage cost of the tax relative to the overall cost of a holiday. This isn't the point. As we observed, the tax can prove to be costly. Playing with percentages is irrelevant. And as for an assertion that the increased rate of the tax has been "adapted to the current market prices", we wanted to know what market. It was nonsense.

In similar vein, we looked at what is happening in Valencia. The PSOE-led administration there has ruled out a tourist tax. The secretary for tourism was quoted as being against a tax for various reasons. One is price-sensitivity, especially for UK travellers in light of the Brexit impact on the exchange rate. Another is because "hospitality is an attribute of our tourism". A tourist tax doesn't fit with such a philosophy.

Meanwhile, Biel Barceló announced that he will not be stepping down as a member of the Balearic parliament. He wishes to carry on because of a commitment to the government's "agreements for change".


Rentals discontent
The Council of Majorca's holiday rentals zoning map received its initial approval at a full meeting of the Council. It was evident that certain town halls were unhappy with the zoning proposals, although others are satisfied. There is to be a meeting with mayors next week. The issue will rumble on for weeks, as zoning won't become definitive until the Council's plan for tourism areas is finished.

Among the unhappy town halls was Escorca. The Partido Popular mayor will be requesting changes. Almost all of this Tramuntana municipality is classified as protected rustic land, which means that there can't be any rentals. The mayor is unlikely to get any satisfaction.


Hotel modernisation
Further investment in hotels in Playa de Palma brought forth observations regarding hoteliers adding to "saturation" by increasing the number of places at redeveloped hotels (one hotel in particular). A further observation, therefore, was that the government is favouring hoteliers and not rentals. However, the framework for this type of development was enshrined in the previous government's tourism law. It was the PP's initiative for modernisation.


Industry and employment
The government announced that over 100 million euros are to be spent over the next eight years in "re-industrialising" the Balearics. Greater economic diversification has been needed for ages, so the initiative is welcome, even if there was some scepticism as to how effective it might prove to be. One of the industries to be targeted is nautical. This has done perfectly well for itself without having had any real government support (quite the opposite on occasions in the past).

Still, if there is some investment to be had, it can only be a good thing and perhaps it will lead to the unemployment rate in the Balearics dipping below ten per cent. Employment minister Iago Negueruela explained that this is a key target for the government. The rate was down to 12.6% last year, and the highest ever level of fourth-quarter employment was registered.


Gota fría
All good things come to an end, and an end to the fine springlike weather was forecast early in the week. With highs having topped the 20C mark for a few days, there was a marked change on Friday. A "gota fría" depression moved in and brought with it heavy rain, high winds and snow in the mountains.

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