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Fitur, one of the three most important trade fairs in the world, was held last week in Madrid, with the stand devoted to Ibiza frequented by famous faces from around the island, as well as television and sports personalities from across the country. The Tourism Promotion Foundation chose the theme “Illa aberta tot l’any” – Island open all year round – to keep away from the traditional sun, sand and discotheque image which most people have of Ibiza, and concentrating on other aspects such as sports events, culture and the natural environment, all of which can be enjoyed twelve months of the year. One of the people invited to the stand was the television presenter, Sonia Ferrer, who is a firm addict of the island. She commented that she discovered Ibiza when she was thirteen years old, on a bicycle, and has been a fan ever since. She lauded the local gastronomy; “tomatoes which taste just as one imagines them and fish so fresh it is almost still moving”. Motorbike racer, Fonsi Nieto, was also on hand to promote Santa Eulalia, where he has a house, and to back the project to construct a sports city. The singer, Manu Tenorio, was promoting the Euroibiza sports competition between university undergraduates, which will be held in San Antonio between the 14th and 17th of April.

Las Dálias organized a fiesta in the luxury Puerta América Hotel where the people in attendance were treated to music from the 70s and served by waiters dressed in the Adlib style. Unfortunately the management of the hotel would not allow any form of decoration to be added, resulting in a lack of the colourful Ibicenco ambience. Neither were youngsters under 24 years of age allowed to enter the nightclub, which meant that more than 20 of the students from the Balearic Tourism University, who had been spending a few days of guided tours in the country’s capital, were excluded.

While at the Fair, the presidents of the Hoteliers Associations in Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza claimed that too much money was currently being spent on public administration, and with 52 Town Halls, their budgets are disparate in comparison with the number of inhabitants. Marilén Pol, from Mallorca, stated “we are in agreement that we are facing moments of austerity, but the priority should be to reactivate the economy and this is based on tourism”. She added that if cutbacks have to be made, they should not be to the detriment of the major industry of all four of the islands.

Juanjo Riera, the President of the Ibiza branch, agreed and added “that the cost of administration has to be reduced, with so many public organizations simply not necessary; the authorities have opted to increase taxes instead of reducing spending. Between corporation taxes, fuel, wages, electricity and water, everything has increased over the last few months, but hoteliers are unable to increase their prices by more than a few points”. He went on to say that he realized the impossibility of reducing the number of Town Halls, but commented that they could attempt to centralize some services and not repeat them 52 times.

Joan Melis, Menorca’s representative, was the only one who was not in complete agreement with the stance of his counterparts, saying that to amalgamate Town Halls would imply a modification to the Constitution. He continued that the tourism sector on his island has been the only one which maintained employment during the present economic down-turn, and asked for more funds to be made available to guarantee its future.

However, despite ever-present talk of the on-going economic crisis, the general mood of the Fair was extremely positive. The three Hotel Association Presidents claimed that this year’s tourist season was looking “promising”, although they did highlight the strong competition which still exists from both Egypt and Turkey, who are not in the euro zone, and are capable of devaluing their currency in order to attract more customers. The Fair was dominated by talk of the recent smoking ban introduced by the Government, with the 74 associations making up the National Hoteliers Federation (FEHR) demanding the law be abolished. The association claims the industry has made huge losses since the new legislation was imposed, and claimed it was willing to provide evidence of the downturn in sales.

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