Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tourist Tax Logic

So, the tourist tax is not to go up during the low season. Despite the pressure from Podemos for an all-year doubling, the government has determined that it is wise to leave the tax as it is - 50% off the current summer rate. Greater wisdom, it might be argued, would have been displayed if the tax had been scrapped for the low season. The government, ministers Barceló and Cladera at any rate, suggested that keeping the existing rate will not make a significant difference to anticipated revenue in 2018. This said much for the lack of low-season tourism. It also, logically, would not make a significant difference if there were no low-season tax.

Logic, where Barceló was concerned, had to do with the "Better in Winter" campaign. Quite. So why was an increase to the low-season rate ever contemplated in the first place? There is another form of logic that Barceló is not telling us about. This is the political logic of the realities of the government and parliament. Who was it who had originally called for a freezing of the low-season rate? Més in Menorca, that's who. Més, in its combined Mallorca-Menorca form, is deeply divided. The Menorcans are not forgiving the way in which Ruth Mateu is taking the rap for the Més contracts' affair. Their three parliamentary deputies can make life awkward for the government, if they so choose; they having formally split from Més in Mallorca - Barceló's domain. The logic has as much to do with realpolitik as it does with any tourism policy.

In addition, there is the logic that will confront Barceló next month at the World Travel Market in London. It would make no sense to go there and attempt to convince tour operators to assist in his fantasy of "diverting" large numbers of tourists away from spring and summer to autumn and winter, if at the same time he is having to explain a doubling of the low-season rate. Again, one has to wonder why this doubling was even considered.

Yet another aspect is the policy of tourism responsibility transfers to the island councils. Barceló referred to different low-season circumstances in Formentera, Ibiza and Menorca. The least one can say about this is that a tourism minister has for once recognised that there are three other islands. But with the islands now far more to the fore in shaping their own destinies and their promotion, a "tax break" makes political sense. Inherent to what he said, however, was a suggestion that Mallorca is that much better off than the other islands in the low season. It is better off, but all things are relative. His observation smacked of a magnanimity that disguised Mallorca's own, long-standing low-season failings.

A certain amount of publicity given this week to the introduction of a tourist tax in Greece next year will not have done Barceló's London mission any harm. This said, the Greek tax has been known about for several months. The rates are similar to the new ones in the Balearics, though oddly enough they apply only to hotels. One can imagine the Greek hoteliers crying the same foul as Balearic hoteliers did with the old ecotax: the foul of discrimination in favour of other forms of accommodation. Still, there is to be a tax in Greece, and where are the howls of reproach in the foreign media that are vented when Mallorca gets an increased tax? Corfu, Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes and Zante just don't cut it in the same media way as Mallorca.

Barceló, in a sense, can also thank the Catalonia crisis as this will overshadow all else in London. However, he might just find "Better in Winter" taking a knock from an independence movement that he personally endorses. The World Travel & Tourism Council brings together 150 of the most powerful companies in the sector. Its president, Gloria Guevera, was warning earlier this week of a "domino effect" from the crisis that will hit other Spanish destinations. It is being suggested that Spain's tourist total for this year might not after all top the 80 million mark because of a slump in fourth-quarter tourism. Then there is next year to be concerned about.

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