Saturday, October 24, 2015

Reducing Tourist Numbers

And so it goes on and will continue to go on until the government can arrive at what it consistently makes a virtue of attempting - consensus. Tourism minister Barceló appears more convinced than ever that the tourist tax will be directed principally at the environment, which represents a change of tune, albeit it is difficult to know what tune he or others are playing: they all seem out of key. The tax debate becomes more extraordinary by the day, confirming the suspicion that the government has turned principles of sound management on their head. You start with what your strategy should be. If this is the environment, if this is resort infrastructure improvement, if this heritage preservation, then fine, but at least establish the strategy first and then work on how it will be implemented, which includes its financing. Instead, the government is working bottom-up. Impose a tax and then figure out what the strategy is. If any.

The tourism forum that was held earlier this week exposed, as if this was necessary, all the glaring differences of opinion. These are now so well rehearsed that there is little point in repeating them. But one contribution stood out. It was that of the geography professor Ivan Murray from the University of the Balearic Islands. In the past he has spoken about the over-development of Mallorca and of the harm caused by human pressure. He said that the objective of the tax was to move towards a situation by which there would be fewer tourists. A reduction in the number of visitors has indeed been spoken of as a reason for introducing the tax, and here was someone - highly regarded - actually stating it.

One wonders which "gurus" members of the government and political parties talk to. Murray is most likely one of them, and his views would sit with the eco-ist left, and it is this - typified by the environmentalists GOB, Podemos and elements of Més (some more strongly than others) - who would seem to have influenced Barceló's latest explanation of the purpose of the tax. GOB have been insisting that the tax goes solely to the environment, Podemos basically want the same, while within Més there are the Greens who want likewise and who are more dogmatic than Barceló has been, or appeared to have been. Barceló has to take account of all these, especially Podemos. I still wonder if they might actually sink the tax if they don't get their way on how it is to be spent.

Though not at the forum but entering the debate anyway, we now have the association for villa businesses, who point to the potential unfairness of the tax if only the regulated holiday accommodation pays it. In addition, it has referred to the logistical difficulties involved with its collection, while villa agencies haven't an inkling as to what the charge might be. The association suggested that 1.5 euros per day per client would be too much. Who's to say that it won't be the 2 euro maximum? As yet, no one knows.

The maximum rate will apply to cruise-ship passengers, though for them (and the cruise operators) there is the unknown of what might constitute a minimum stay and so an exemption. Furthermore, many bookings for next year have already been made. How do the operators recuperate the tax? Do they?

There is still so much uncertainty that it would make far greater sense to delay the tax's introduction until 2017. The government might then be able to have covered all (or most) eventualities, another one of which is what on earth happens with yachts that stay at Balearic ports. No one appears to have even mentioned these. But of course the government can't delay, as it is desperate for the revenue in 2016. There's the strategy for you.

No comments: