Balearic President Francesc Antich yesterday at the International Berlin Travel fair, challenged tour operators and hoteliers opposed to the tourist tax to come up with viable alternatives, otherwise the government will introduce the tax as planned on May 1. While Balearic Minister for Tourism, Celesti Alomar, spent Sunday arguing over booking figures with Germany's leading tour operators and the Spanish Secretary of State for Tourism and Commerce, Antich yesterday threw down the gauntlet over the controversial tourist tax. He told the German media that the tax is vital for the future of the Balearics and for the improvement of tourism, he also made it clear that he expects Germany, an eco-friendly country, to understand the tax. Antich called for an end to the confrontations of the levy and said that he and the Balearic government are open to suggestions to reach a consensus on the tax. Antich maintains there is no need to delay the tax's introduction, although he has come under heavy political pressure, from both sides of parliament at home, to delay the tax until November. Ahead of the travel fair, Antich appeared to be prepared to postpone the tax because of the poor summer bookings and concerns of the Balearic hotel and commercial sectors. But in Berlin yesterday, he showed his true colours. Antich said that 60 million euros in tax revenue is as stake by delaying the levy and put the ball back in the court of the hoteliers and tour operators. He asked them to justify their calls for a delay and to come up with some solid solutions and alternatives, after that Antich said he is prepared to decide when the tax will be applied. With regards to the slump in Balearic package holiday bookings, Antich said “both September 11 and the recession in Germany have caused instability, but having visited the fair I'm optimistic because I've seen indications that the economy is starting to recover.” Antich said that he and Alomar have been speaking with Germany's leading tour operators to make sure that the tourist tax causes the minimum of problems and that he hopes the Balearic authorities and the tour operators can continue working together to make sure that summer 2002 is a success. Turespaña says German bookings are down 28 per cent, Alomar is sticking with five.

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