WTM 2017: Balearic Islands sustainable projects get underway

WTM 2017: Balearic Islands sustainable projects get underway

The Balearic Islands’ Sustainable Tourism Tax, introduced in July 2016, will help fund around 100 tourism initiatives across the islands in the coming months, general director Pilar Carbonell told a press conference at WTM.

The tax, charged at a rate of between €1 and €4 per person per night depending on the accommodation type, has already raised an estimated €100m. It is being used to help preserve natural and cultural sites such as the Serra de Tramontana mountain range, a Unesco World Heritage Site in Majorca, and the Ses Salines Natural Park, a nature reserve in Ibiza.

It marks a change in strategy for both islands, according to Carbonell. “Sustainability has always been a focus on some islands like Menorca, which is a biosphere reserve, and Formentera, but less so on the other islands,” she told Travel Weekly. “But now Ibiza and Majorca have realised that this is a must for the future too. The world is talking about sustainability at the moment so it’s really important.”

Over on Fomentera the Save Posidonia Project has already launched, with the aim of protecting the posidonia plant – essential in helping keep waters clean – which has declined by 30-40% in recent years as a result of yacht anchorage.

Meanwhile in Menorca, the 186km-long Cami de Cavalls – an ancient heritage route – has received €260,000 in funding from the tax, and there are plans to boost it further.

“They’re going to take a similar approach to the Camino de Santiago, with guests being able to walk along the route and stay overnight as they go,” said Carbonell

“Old farm houses and so on are going to be converted into guest lodges. I believe the money from the tourist tax is already going into that project – we don’t have a confirmed start date yet but it will probably launch in 2018.”

Carbonell said the tax hadn’t had any impact on UK visitor numbers. “In the first 9 months of 2017 we’ve had an increase in British tourists so I don’t think they’re too worried about paying the tax – I think people are going to value that governments are looking after the islands.

“What we want to say is this is what you pay but this is where it goes to, I think it’s worth it if you want to keep going to the Balearics in the future.”

Overall visitor numbers to the Balearics grew 6.6% year on year between January and September 2017, with UK visitors making up 27.4% of overseas tourists in the region during that period.

Travel Weekly coverage of World Travel Market

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