BALEARIC TOURISM MINISTER CALLS FOR CAUTION

THE Balearics fears that war on Iraq will do little to help tourism with regional tourism minister Celesti Alomar yesterday calling on the Prime Minister not to back the United States because of the possible repercussion on the holiday industry. Alomar, attending the opening day of the FITUR travel trade fair in Madrid, repeated his claims that the Balearics will see a slight recovery in the troubled tourist industry this year “providing Bush and his allies do not attack Iraq." “If there's a war in Iraq, it's hard for the tourism industry to function well,” the minister said, calling on Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar “to follow the lead of Germany and France to try and either block or delay unilateral action against Iraq “The leader of a country which is heavily orientated towards tourism can't be a warmongerer,” Alomar added. The tourism minister launched his attack on the government's foreign policy ahead of presenting a review of last year's Balearic tourist industry and how tourist tax money has already been spent. DEspite the 6.7 per cent drop in tourism and the 16 per cent slump in the German market, Alomar proclaimed that, economically, the Balearics “is still a European market leader and is in good condition to confront a future full of changes." Alomar sung the praises of the controversial tourist tax “which clearly separates us from other destinations and is a clear statement that we are determined to move away from mass tourism by putting the emphasis on the environment and nature.” The Balearics will in fact be the only Spanish destination not posting growth rates at the fair, Carmel Bonnin, director of the Balearic Tourism technology Investigation centre, told delegates at FITUR that the 6.7 decline in tourist represented 634.242 less visitors and that the hotel sector has suffered a 8.5 per cent fall in occupancy. Bonnin had to admit that one of the many factors which worked against the Balearics last year was also that prices rose by 6.1 per cent compared to the 4.9 per cent national average. During the opening ceremony yesterday, Spain's deputy prime minister, Rodrigo Rato, praised the industry's efforts last year with Spain now the second most popular destination in the world, and urged the industry to maintain standards this year, pushing ahead in the drive for quality and value for money. This year 40 million euros is being spent on promoting Spain overseas.

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