A million loss or not?
It was not all sweetness and harmony in the Balearic camp at London's World Travel Market. Majorca's hoteliers issued a warning that there could be the loss of one million tourists because of the hike in the tourist tax. They were basing their calculation on what occurred in 2002, the first year of the old ecotax. Extrapolating from the decline in that year and taking into account the increased numbers of tourists since then, one million wasn't so far off being a ballpark number. There again, and as has been observed in the Bulletin in the past, the slump in tourism in 2002 was overwhelmingly due to the German market. The German economy was not in the best of shape at that time, while the Germans had taken umbrage at some comments made by Majorcan politicians. The scenario was specific to 2002, but 2018 could well have echoes of it.
The hoteliers did not of course allude to their own price increases, but by inference tourism minister Biel Barceló did. Hotel profits were up, he observed, in celebrating the fact that hotel worker salaries will be increasing accordingly and that the government was on the right track in achieving quality of employment and also a longer tourism season.
The government spokesperson, Pilar Costa, was certainly on-message. At a different forum, the weekly press conference, she echoed everything that Barceló had to say but also called on the hoteliers not to spread alarm about the tourist tax. Meanwhile, no one was quoting what Biel Barceló had to say about the tourist tax in the Bulletin a few weeks ago: "So, in all fairness, I think the tax has been accepted and it certainly is not putting people off coming here. It may next year when it is doubled and some of the troubled destinations come back on line, but we will be talking a couple of thousand."
Couple of thousand or a million?
Diversification and sustainability
On his return from London, Barceló faced a parliamentary committee at which he explained that spending on economic diversification will soar by 39% in 2018. Government policies, he stressed, are aimed at changing the current "tourism monoculture economy". Yes, but what about the tourist tax, came the question from the Partido Popular. Not a problem, the minister responded, citing the fact that UK tourist spending in winter and spring was up by 16%. Maybe, but that was last winter and spring.
The minister and members of his ministry had of course been at pains to point out that policies are all to do with sustainability. And addressing a perceived lack of communication about how tourist tax revenue is spent, they highlighted a website where people can now see for themselves. This website - sustainableislands.travel (*see link below) - was the subject of a critical review in Friday's paper: "little thought applied", "a dismal attempt at persuasion".
Indoctrination in schools
There was a story from Manacor where parents had taken exception to a banner having been strung across a street which demanded freedom for political prisoners - this was of course a reference to jailed politicians in Catalonia. It turned out that the banner had been put up by a former councillor with Més. While the town hall was contemplating sanctions for an apparent breach of the public way bylaw, parents were more inclined to take the matter up with the prosecution service for minors. The banner was close to a primary school, and the parents were claiming that it amounted to political indoctrination.
Prior to this news item, indoctrination was an issue we had looked at in some depth, noting examples of alleged indoctrination in schools, such as pupils having apparently been "obliged" to take part in a protest in favour of the Catalonia referendum.
The Spanish government, backed by the Council of State advisors, finally decided that the time had come to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the Balearics "bulls law". The appeal had been expected, even if it had taken Madrid longer than what is the normal three-month period to lodge an appeal. However, the Balearic government has observed that Madrid can sometimes sidestep this timeframe. There has been no appeal against the holiday rentals legislation, though it is still feasible there might be.
Anyway, the appeal against the bulls law means that the regional legislation will be suspended for at least five months. At the end of this time, the court has to rule if the legislation should be permanently suspended or not.
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