The next Palma Boat Show will take place from 1st to 5th of May 2013 and for the occasion “great changes adapted to our understanding of the business” are going to be presented, assures Margarita Dahlberg, the President of the Balearic Nautical Business Association.
Dahlberg explained that every year, "the price was higher, the show was not promoted properly and it did not attract enough visitors with purchasing power. Although the model could appear good, the tendency of the show was spiralling down. Already last year it was hard to find enough exhibitors, the entrepreneurs made a great effort and spent a lot of money. There is no return to the same model.
In fact, this professional of the marine industry foresees "a fairly black" future and points out that ten years ago "we were market leaders, now we are in the position fourteen and probably go down to 20-odd and more. We need space for boat parks on dry land, space for large boats to undertake their repairs and of course we need to adapt the registration tax to make us more competitive with other markets and sectors.“
Dahlberg advocates the abolition of registration taxes which means a vessel can end paying up to 12% of their value just by spending three days on the islands, although on several occasions she has been reproached to be helping the rich to pay less: "It is not so simple. To create wealth and jobs we have to be competitive. Right now, the registration tax does not make us competitive with neighboring countries such as France or Italy. They can offer the same as us: magnificent coasts, infrastructure, ports, restaurants ... but there is no registration tax. Therefore, when choosing, if I get the same services, where do I go? "
Asked whether the government is responsive to the needs and demands of the sector, Mrs Dahlberg said it is not, for one simple reason: "They are not familiar with the sector. It is a modern sector with a special idiosyncrasy, which for years has been gaining a bad reputation by people who have evaded taxes, and still see it as a black hole where it is better not to go. In addition, there are still those absurd arguments "we can not lower a tax on the rich." However, we must recognize that the Balearic Government has understood us, and is helping us, but can realistically do very little as these issues are regulated at the national level. I know that President Bauzá has met with Rajoy and explained the problems, but it is the Ministry of Finance which has to resolve the issue and they are not very open to it."
Regarding tax evasion and black money that moves in the sector, Dahlberg said she has no data for the simple reason that it is all hidden "but in our valuation of the sector we would tell you that people on the wrong side of the law are a minority. The thing is, it happens, but they are very few.”
And although our community occupies the number first spot in the sector – 60% of the business of recreational yachting is generated in the Mediterranean, and 40% of that in the Balearics – Dahlberg points out that the business passes through the Balearics, it does not stay here. If we could eliminate the obstacles this 40% would stay in the Balearics and we could possibly double the percentage. It would be very interesting if the boats stayed here to carry on their repairs, as approximately the equivalent of 10% of the value of the boats is being spent on repairs annually. We are talking about a lot of money.
"But," she adds, “it´s more difficult to make a proposal alone, and even more so as we are a community with little national weight. If Catalunya or Andalucia made the same proposals, they probably would be listened to. We're in the best place for sailing, but in the worst when it comes to defending our interests."
Last year the Association stated that the governing PSIB party (The Socialist Party of the Balearic Islands) belittled the sector, but Dahlberg wants to point out it wasn´t really like this: “the words were taken out of context, it wasn´t even what was said. What we wanted to bring across was that we explained to President Antich what the sector needed, but there was no response. We lost 4 years, although we can´t put all in the same sack – the coalition partners PSM in the Ministry of Trade and Industry helped the sector, as well as UM in Tourism and Ports. But the sector expected that President Antich would take the leadership and personally put a bit more emphasis. That’s what we were hoping.
And as for this season, Dahlberg has recognized that the sector is "far more fortunate than others in this time of crisis" but clarifies that the sector has not been taken into consideration by creating an appropriate framework "and therefore we have both fiscal and legislative gaps that do not permit the sector to move forward. Due to the lack of awareness among the central and regional administrations our industry is not properly regulated. We're not as well off as we could be."
So, Dahlberg points out, "in the national market, the registrations have fallen by 8%. Since 2006 the trend is downward and the accumulated negative is getting bigger. In the Balearics, being in a strategic position in the Mediterranean, foreign vessels with good purchasing power continue coming. The Germans are now fully recovered, the Swiss and French do not have the same level of crisis as us ... but as the regulation in our sector is so skewed that the boats that really should come - the charter boats of over 15 meters of length – do not come in order to avoid the aforementioned registration tax for a few days of rest. This tax is not required elsewhere."
Dahlberg believes the sector can help Spain, and the Balearics, to come out of the crisis and points out that the nautical tourism is tourism of "great purchasing power, much more than golf. Nautical tourists have fallen in love with the islands and often repeat visits several times, spending a lot of money and their crew too. If we are to follow this model we have to make things easier for them to come. I leave it on the table."
About why we do not have dry marinas and boat parks, this entrepreneur says “the topic is not understood and therefore strongly discouraged. You can not have a boat park in the middle of an industrial estate in the center of the island. It is not the right concept. It must be located in a place where you can call and in half an hour have your boat in the water. The dry marina has to be next to the sea. But as the sea side is so protected this is impossible. They could be included in future remodeling projects. The proposed reform of the Playa de Palma has not included any of these marinas, it is a missed opportunity. I try to sow the seeds, but it is difficult."
With respect to the proposed extension of the Port of Palma, presented a few weeks ago to the Government by a Dutch promoter, Dahlberg believes that anyone can come "and draw on a map whatever they like. And it is true that the port of Palma needs a transformation and modernization in the face of the future, but we do not need anyone from outside to tell us what sort of port we have to have. We have entrepreneurs, naval and marine engineers who can design. We are exemplary in that."
She also explained that regarding the weight of the sector in the island economy, the data they have access to is very old, from 2000, when 30% of Balearic industrial GDP corresponded to the nautical sector, "at the time the construction was very strong and pulled all the other industries along. Unfortunately we are now going down every year. A decade ago we were leading in the Mediterranean in repair and maintenance, now we have moved to No. 14. We need more space in the port, the boats are bigger now. In Barcelona they are building bigger marinas and as soon as they are ready, the boats will go over there. "
Finally, Margarita Dahlberg made it clear that The Balearics "has much to say in this area because we have a lot of know-how."