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BBC Wales's Iolo ap Dafydd
"Cheap holidays in the Balearics might become a thing of the past"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Tourists face island tax costs
holidaymakers on Ibiza beach
Tourists will end up paying more during their holidays
BBC Wales's European Correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd warns Welsh holidaymakers of plans to introduce a tourist tax in the Balearic Islands.

The Balearic Islands have over the past 30 years become synonymous with cheap package holidays a short two hour flight from home.

Each year around a 150,000 Welsh holiday makers fly out of Cardiff airport alone to Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza.

But this trip might come at an extra cost after December.

The devolved government of the Islands will introduce a new tax - called the eco-tax - on 1 January, 2002.

holidaymakers in Mallorca
They will do this against the wishes of the Spanish central government, who believe the tax is unconstitutional.

The tax will be introduced on the same day as the Spanish peseta succumbs to the new Euro currency.

As of next year visitors to the islands will have to get used to paying the new tax with a new money.

The cost of 1 euro per person per day seems reasonable enough which at the current exchange rate is roughly 60p a day.

But it will obviously affect larger families more and will cost a family of four around 33.60 for two weeks which will have to paid at the hotel or appartment at the end of the stay.

Improvements

Almost 50% of the projected 72m a year the new tax will generate, has been earmarked to improve existing resorts, as well as other more precise environment projects.

BBC Cymru Wales talked to several Welsh holiday makers in the Mallorca resorts of Palma Nova, Magaluf and El Arenal.

According to Nia Lewis from Pontyates in the Gwendraeth Valley, she would be less than impressed with an extra payment at the end of her holiday.

She believes it to be unfair. Her partner Dylan Morgan from Tumble disagreed, because he says, there is work to be done on clearing litter and improving the sewage system.

Alwyn Lloyd
Worried : bar owner Alwyn Lloyd
Sharon Davies and her family from Burry Port near Llanelli believes the new tax would need a major re-think on where they take their holidays next year.

But the Islands tourism minister, Celesti Alomar, has already said he would prefer 20% less visitors a year, and encourage wealthier tourists instead.

Image revamp

Margalida Roseiio, the Balearics environment minister seems to agree with Mr Alomar that their image is less than desirable.

"The problems are of mass tourism alongside coastal areas - which is a good-time tourism - cheeper and more basic - clearly of which a part are hooligans and other people like that who come from different countries," he said.

Alwyn Lloyd - owner of the Sospan Fach bar in Palma Nova reckons the authorities should at least wait a season or two before deciding if the tax has affected trade or not.

By claiming now they would prefer a higher calibre of tourist they might be potentially conducting a suicidal business plan, he says.

But with a huge marketable product - islands bristling with hotels, warm seas and never ending sunshine for most of the year - the autonomous government of the Balearic Islands know it is a gamble worth taking.

They know that their natural resources are dwindling.

Fresh underground water levels have dropped 95 meters since 1979. The need for energy from their grids have shot up 37%.

Death knell

But as the Balearics have progressed from being one of the poorer regions of Spain to be the wealthiest, Welsh business owners such as Sue Brown - from Tenby originally - questions why the authorities want to attract wealthier visitors mostly.

It would be the death knell of small business like hers and Alwyn Lloyd in Palma Nova who pay high taxes to local authorities.

Do not be surprised if other Spanish regions with autonomy from Madrid - the Canaries, Catalunya, Andalucia - imports the idea, and implements it too.

It might be that cheap holidays in the Balearics might become a thing of the past, on the other hand it might take a long time for Mallorca and Ibiza to achieve their desired exclusive status amongst holiday destinations.

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