Friday, September 01, 2017

The Improvising Tourist Tax

Anyone care to make any predictions for next year's tourism? It wasn't so long ago - as in before the current season - that we were being told that 2018 would be the same procedure as in recent years. The tour operators were among those who were saying that Mallorca 2018 would produce another bumper tourist crop.

What a difference a few months make. Tour operators holding back on contracts, the odd group of youthful agitators commanding way more attention than they merit, the rentals' saga and now the tourist tax again. It had looked as if the tourist tax introduction last year really hadn't made much difference, though it may have depressed spending. But with a doubling, one can be sure that this will be something else that will be latched onto by a foreign media only too eager to hype up Mallorcan negatives.

Not that the foreign media will be alone. The jungle drums of social media are already pounding. The tourist tax will be revisited when the Balearics turn up in London for the World Travel Market in a couple of months time. Biel Barceló is going to have a lot of explaining to do.

With everything else going on, putting up the tourist tax seems unnecessary if, as the government is saying, it is a measure to moderate tourist numbers. The government may succeed in other ways in doing this, such as with the rentals' legislation. The hoteliers are assisting the government, thanks to their prices. The foreign media, loving the odd anti-tourist riot that simply hasn't taken place, is doing its best in overblowing a really minor matter.

So why is the tourist tax going up? Well, there are those in the parties of the pact who always felt it was too low. Not long after the tax was introduced last summer there was already talk that it might go up. Biel Barceló said that a rise wasn't on the cards but that it might be considered once it was possible to get a complete picture of its impact. Well, he now has one, and this year it hasn't made a difference insofar as the number of tourists has actually increased. Alarmed by ongoing saturation and with Podemos pointing a gun at his head and at the government's budget, up will go the tax.

But Barceló once insisted that the tax was not about reducing numbers. Yes, he really did say this. The tax was only a very small contribution to Balearic sustainability, something to be spent by adoring and loyal tourists. Now, however, it is about cutting numbers. It has nothing to do with making more revenue available to the government. Do Barceló and the government take people for idiots? Of course it's about increasing government revenue and so increasing government spending. Why do they keep going on about insufficient funding that needs to be topped up if it isn't?

Over and above this is the clear political agenda. PSOE were initially reluctant in wanting there to be a tourist tax at all. They remembered that it was they who had introduced the old ecotax. Then they started to say that had the ecotax remained in place, Balearic funding woes would not have been as lachrymose as they allegedly have been. So their narrative shifted in order to justify their willingness to go along with certain tax-agitating eco-nationalists and quasi or actual anti-capitalists within Més and Podemos. And now we arrive at an increase and at a situation in which the level of government improvisation and dissembling has become truly mind-blowing. How's London going to be for you, Biel? Take your tin helmet.

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