Balearics President Francesc Antich is going to take the biggest gamble of his political career and introduce the tourist tax within the next six weeks. In a surprise ruling, the Constitutional Tribunal in Madrid lifted its suspension on the highly controversial and hugely unpopular levy. Central government took the policy to the tribunal last year on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and discriminatory, but the tribunal reached its decision to lift the suspension yesterday - although it is still studying the case. Within days of September 11, Antich, under the advice from the international tourism sector, said that if the climate was not right then the tax would obviously not be introduced. Bookings to the Balearics are well down on last year and showing little signs of recovering this year in some markets with the global tourism market extremely price sensitive. This was the climate under which Antich was advised by tourism experts and tour operators not to introduce the tax. Antich yesterday said the ruling in Madrid was “excellent” news and that the tax will be in place within a maximum of a month and a half. But, while the suspension has been lifted, the Tribunal has still yet to reach a decision of whether the tax is unconstitutional or not. However, what the ruling does mean is that if the tribunal rules against the tax, money raised in the meantime will not have to be refunded, one of the government's initial fears. The levy will be collected by hotels and apartment complexes, a task the hotel federations are refusing to comply with. Tourists will be charged between half and two euros per day, depending on the quality of their accommodation. The local government hopes to raise an extra 10.000 million pesetas per year for the protection and management of the environment and tourist resorts. Balearic government surveys claim that the majority of tourists are prepared to pay the tax although one of the reasons for the German exodus of tourists from the Balearics last year was talk of the tax. Top-selling newspaper Bildeven encouraged Germans to write to the King of Spain asking him to help scrap the idea. In an independent survey, 70 per cent of British holidaymakers said they would pay an environmental tax “providing the destination was providing something different.” Those staying in private properties will escape the tax.

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