Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar, made it categorically clear at the FITUR travel fair in Madrid yesterday that the local government has no intention of back tracking on the tourist tax. Alomar said that his government has always been “open to dialogue” over the tax from day one and that the “doors are still open to discuss how it will be introduced and applied.” Alomar said that the government is aware of all the opinions of the tourist sector, but stressed that the government has made its decision and feels verified by the recent decision by the Constitutional Tribunal in Madrid to lift the suspension on the tax, although it has yet to reach a ruling on central government appeal against the levy. The Minister reminded tourism industry chiefs in Madrid that the government has, since 1999, tried to negotiate and reach an agreement with the industry as a whole “but it has not been possible.” But, with delegates at the fair having already heard from the Prime Minsiter Aznar and Spain's Minister for Finance, who both said that this year will be a tough one for tourism, Alomar announced that the number of tourists who visited the Balearics was down by 1.5 per cent in comparison to 2000. 10.023.777 holiday makers visited the islands, of which 8.499.312 were foreign, two per cent less than in 2000. However, Alomar said that the figures are not important, “what is important is providing tourism which is manageable”. The Minister added that for the first time in the region's history, the number of hotel beds on the market fell because of the government's drive to boost quality hotel accommodation “in search of a more select tourism industry,” he said. There were 28 less hotels open last year and 1'502 less beds on offer. Alomar said that the Balearics is still Spain's top holiday destination, although the Balearics was the only region to have seen tourist numbers fall last year. For the first time ever, Alomar was able to provide figures for the number of people with second homes in the Balearics. He said while the study is still in its early stages, the holiday home market accounted for around 13 per cent of the ten million-plus visitors.

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