Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Follies Of Youth: Tourist tax

You need to be careful that things don't come back and bite you. In a multimedia era, even one at the end of the last century, there may be something lurking which can cause embarrassment. Ask Inma Benito, the president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation and one of the principal opponents of the tourist tax.

A clip was hauled out from the film archives of Spanish television earlier this week. The year was 1998. It featured a researcher from the University of the Balearic Islands: Inma Benito. She was involved with tourism courses in Menorca at the time and in the clip she says that it would be positive if a tourist tax were to be introduced. There was a market disposed to paying a tax. The price had to be reasonable, but the market would be willing to pay it. Indeed, a market that was not well disposed towards a tourist tax would not be interesting for the Balearics.

Oh, the follies of youth. Benito has laughed it all off. After twenty years in the hotel and tourism sector one sees things differently. She hadn't remembered saying it. There again, she hadn't had any opportunity to study a tax.

Well, it was twenty years ago (or eighteen to be exact) and opinions can and do change, especially when you have been a career administrator with the hoteliers federation for as long as Inma has been. But there was one aspect of what she said which did rather touch a nerve: it was the thing about not being interested in a market that was not disposed to paying a tax. The unspoken message here was one that was widely discussed at the time and was to be a backdrop to the introduction of the old eco-tax: the "quality" of the tourist.

The insinuation of what this meant was not to be lost on the German market in particular, especially when Maria Munar was championing greater quality among the tourist class. And associated with this was the whole issue of tourism numbers. It is remarkable how things just keep coming around. In parliament on Thursday the issue was raised once again. Does the government wish to place a ceiling on the number of tourists? Biel Barceló has suggested that it does, while on another occasion having said that it would not be feasible to do so.

Benito's pro-tax declaration was not the only interesting aspect of this trip down television lane. There was also Francesc Antich (PSOE), to become president in 1999, referring to the need for a tax in order to change the model of growth. For that, one can read Biel Barceló's present-day change of economic model.

The narrative hasn't changed, only certain people's opinions. Inma is often photographed laughing.

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