This week the controversial tourist tax is back on the agenda with the white paper about to be put up for parliamentary debate before the week is out. Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar, has been locked in a battle with the local hotel sector and tour operators opposed to the tax ever since he let the idea slip in Minorca over a year ago. Alomar launched a fresh bid to win some support for the tax, proclaiming “it will be good for everybody if the tax is approved as soon as possible.” With regards to the rift between his Ministry and the hotel sector, Alomar denied claims that there has been no contact between the two parties. “I have never lost contact with them,” he said, adding that the Balearic government has “done all it can to encourage negotiations.” Alomar reminded all the sectors involved, which is primarily the hotel sector as only hotel guests will have to pay the tourist tax, “there is plenty of room to work and the doors are still open for anybody who wants to take part in developing the project.” But he warned, that while amendments may be made in order to improve the tourist tax model, “the government has no intention of pulling up along the road” to introducing its tourism policy, of which the tourist tax is a key part. However, the Balearic government has been warned by Europe's leading tour operators and other key industry organisations, such as the Association of British Tour Operators, that unless the Balearic tourist industry is going to “offer something different” a tourist tax could turn people away from the region. Alomar admitted earlier this year that the region has to bring itself up to date with the latest trends in the tourist industry in order to compete with Eastern Mediterranean destinations. These are enjoying a huge revival, especially in the German market with bookings to Turkey up by around 40 per cent and many of the leading tour operators pushing Egypt and Greece as well. Although directors of Spanish tourist offices in Europe met in Palma for talks about the forthcoming summer, with many reassuring the Balearic market that British and German bookings, down 12 and 20 per cent respectively, will pick up, there was little consideration given to the tourist tax. Just the mere press reports in Germany of the government's proposal to bring in a levy for hotel guests had a negative affect on last year's market. A market survey in the UK concluded that the majority of package holiday makers would not object to paying an environmental tax, providing the destinations offered something unique or different.

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