Ibiza: The Luxury Myth

We were sold a lie. We were told that if we built a luxury resort then we would get better people but the luxury myth and the privatisation of clubs, beaches and VIP areas aimed at wannabe millionaires has already taken its toll.

The island and its conscience is already paying an unaffordable social toll through a housing crisis for residents and seasonal workers and a dramatic cultural toll with the loss of local identity and the progressive destruction of the island’s nature. Now we need to add the side effects of selling your soul to the ‘luxury’ tourism sector.

Alarm bells have been sounded by Ibiza’s hoteliers, announcing that the room sales for July and August are ‘slower than normal’, that overnight stays have fallen again in May and June and that the main cause is the image that Ibiza projects to the world together with the competition from other emerging Mediterranean destinations. For example the local press recently published a story that for the price of a week’s holiday in Ibiza you can enjoy a whole month in Lanzarote.

Ibiza Hotels Association vice-president Juanjo Planells said that in 2018 “we will see decreases in all the statistics” and that “clients stay less and less time in Ibiza”. Even the president of the Ibiza Nightlife Association, José Corraliza, acknowledged that “there is business concern for this seasons projections” and that “the decline curve has already begun”.

Spare your tears for now as the hotels will likely be ‘saved’ once again by drastically reducing their rates in order to fill the empty rooms but the downward trend is a reality and we will have to start thinking about a strategy to reverse it.

For decades Ibiza has coexisted with the burden of an image revolving around drugs and parties without control, our two great workhorses. Administrations have spent years investing in campaigns to change the world’s perception of Ibiza away from this perpetual orgy, to try and retain European family tourism that has traditionally put bread on the table. Their stays are counted by weeks not days.

The companies that promote luxury sold it to us as the remedy that would revolutionise the tourist industry and conquer a new image for Ibiza as well as filling our pockets but this premise has proved to be essentially false. In recent years inequalities have increased, beaches and landscapes have been prostituted and the benefits have been shared among only a privileged few who have become rich beyond their wildest dreams while others struggle to find a reasonably priced roof to put over their heads.

While we have been convincing ourselves that top end luxury is the only way forward the hippy, carefree, tolerant and strong character of Ibiza has been blurred on an island where people of all conditions, social class and nationality were previously welcomed with open arms, something we have almost lost.

With the perspective of time, we now know that the island of luxury and that of the perpetual drug fuelled party are the same dog just with a more golden and tacky collar. Identical debauchery but now led by people with more disposable cash paying triple for exactly the same product as before although now it’s packaged and presented with a falsely glamorous papier-mâché décor.

The problem is not a mere question of price but the massive imbalance between quality and price plus the projected image of the island when that imbalance is so brazen. The UK travel press has picked up on it: ‘5 star Dubai is £2000 cheaper than 5 star Ibiza’ scream the headlines. But also consider the quality behind the headline and what to expect for your money in those destinations.

Ibiza has some great entrepreneurs and professionals who run establishments with enough quality to serve as an alibi for their high prices however there are many others who could be described as charlatans at best and scammers at worst offering inferior products only faintly disguised. These days almost everything in Ibiza is sold as ‘luxury’ even when the majority of the product on offer is medium or low.

While the tourists of the world continue filling Ibiza’s villas, apartments and suites and paying for cheap rooms as if they were staying at the Waldorf Astoria we will be saved but at the same time it’s a dangerous strategy similar to planting landmines for future generations. How will Ibiza attract upper-middle class families once the demand for the this quasi-luxury product diminishes? Will there still be some authentic Ibiza fragment left to offer? Will it be credible?

Some might argue that the market regulates itself and that prices will adjust themselves accordingly but the millstone of exorbitant prices will not be taken away for years to come. It’s a cycle that needs to reach its natural conclusion.

For now the challenge is how we can diversify the Ibiza product and how can we transform it’s image to anticipate and hopefully avoid the crisis that looms like a dark cloud in the sky. If you ask the Ibiza hoteliers right now they may suggest that the bubble hasn’t burst but has already begun to deflate.

Adapted from article in Diario de Ibiza

New San Antonio Noise Laws Starting to Hurt Local Business

On an island not used to rational thinking it takes a certain kind of ‘skill’ to come up with a law that not only dumbfounds but also achieves the exact opposite of what it set out to do.

When San Antonio’s left wing coalition council first proposed earlier closing times for bars in the ‘West End’ it cited noise issues as the main reason. After much debate and lobbying they decided to enforce a 3am closing curfew on only a small area meaning that some bars close at 3am while others bars only metres away can stay open until 5am.

The 3am closing means that the party has to stop just as it’s getting going and as numerous videos on social media clearly show it also means that thousands of young holidaymakers are being ushered into the street at the same time increasing the noise levels substantially. The partygoers then find the new bars or go to the beach or carry on back at their hotels.

Contrary to many residents’ opinion the majority of these young holidaymakers aren’t drunken hooligans on a nightly rampage but normal people trying to enjoy the famous Ibiza ambience and wanting to have a little fun with money in their pockets.

San Antonio’s West End, world famous for its nightlife now has stricter opening hours than in the UK and the new laws have increased the potential for noise rather than decreased it. I’m voting this as the most ridiculous law ever (and that’s saying something).

Meanwhile over in San Antonio Bay the local authorities are busy installing sound limiters in all music venues. The limits they are enforcing are proving unworkable for some bars such as the family friendly ‘Old Tavern’ famous for its live entertainment and karaoke. It has had a sound limiter fitted with an inside limit of 74 decibels before 11pm and 64db after. To put this into perspective an average dishwasher makes 75db of sound.

The strict policy is starting to affect local livelihoods and some bars will inevitably close, staff will become unemployed and suppliers will lose contracts. One local bar owner is even suffering from serious health issues due to the prejudicial new laws. The list goes on but the main people affected are the tourists who will be sat in lifeless bars and wish they had gone somewhere else…..and they eventually might.

The new noise laws are an example of residents taking back control of ‘their’ town but without tourists there won’t be any residents and the new noise laws are simply unworkable to many. It appears that Ibiza has forgotten how it got into it’s popular position in the first place: offering good old fashioned fun in a laid back manner for 4 months of the year and then living in tranquility for 8 months, compromise is a dirty word these days.

From Ibiza to Russia..with Love

It doesn’t happen very often, in fact you’ve got nearly as much chance of seeing Halley’s Comet as seeing England win the World Cup so when my team qualified for the semi final and a ticket became available it was too good an opportunity to turn down especially as I’ve always wanted to visit Moscow, even if it was only for 36 hours.

It was a long journey from Ibiza to Moscow via Palma eventually gaining entry into the Russian Federation by staring down the attractive yet stern faced immigration officer whilst also realising that Russians aren’t familiar with the word ‘queue’.  With very few signs in English you immediately get the feeling that you’re in a foreign land. In this globalised age where English is the universal language it was quite refreshing that Russia still retains that edge of an other-worldly, unique destination especially as the friendly taxi drivers don’t speak much or any English making basic communication a real challenge.

After overcoming the language barrier with plenty of handshaking and backslapping the city was opening up before me and first impressions were that it’s big, very big with the Moskva river running through the heart of it. It’s clear that the communist dream is over as you pass McDonald’s and cosmopolitan western boutiques on many street corners. People are dressed smartly and you sense fashion and appearance plays an important part of everyday life in Moscow.

A little sightseeing is good for the soul and you can’t go to Moscow without a visit to Red Square and the surrounding area, which is a must-see.  St Basil’s Cathedral a jaw dropping, colourful contrast to the Kremlin which is directly opposite, the epitome of the old grey soviet republic. It also has to be said that Russians like a statue, they are in all prominent places and usually big phallic tributes to times gone by.

As it was semi final day there were plenty of football fans from both sides milling around Red Square. Both sets of fans were in fine voice and the atmosphere was buzzing with zero aggression. Now it was match time but we mistakenly took a taxi instead of the metro so after a stressful 90 minute drive through rush hour we managed to get to the ground only 20 mins before kick off.  Security was tight but efficient and the Luzhniki Stadium is a magnificent coliseum with great views from all seats, a fitting venue for a semi final and final of the World Cup.

After the national anthems the game settled down with England taking an early lead with a direct free kick from Kieran Trippier. I was directly behind him at the opposite end and it was a goal from the second it left his foot. England pressed for a 2nd and looked good for a while but the Croatian pair of Rakitic & Modric gradually started to boss the game. The equaliser came midway through the 2nd half and startled England who went into defence mode relying on the old trick of lumping the ball up to the big man (I’d mistakenly thought we had moved on).  Croatia looked the most likely to score which is exactly what they did deep into extra time after the English momentarily went to sleep. There was to be no glorious come back this time.

Sport can be a cruel game but as we filed out of the stadium most England fans were pragmatic in defeat. We were beaten by a slightly better team on the night and couldn’t quite step up to the level required. The minuscule margins at the top of sport had conspired against us but our young Lions had given it a good go and can go home with their heads held high (after the pointless 3rd and 4th place play off in St Petersburg on Saturday).

It was time to lick our wounds and drown our sorrows in the local bars, once again meeting only jovial people every step of the way. Not one hint of danger after the UK press had over hyped potential problems for traveling England fans. The fact that lots of the messages I’d received from friends had asked me to ‘stay safe’ said all you needed to know about the well sold lie about this celebration of football yet at no time did you feel threatened. People were overwhelmingly friendly and Russians seem to have a special welcoming glint in their eye.  We mulled over the result and sank a few beers until the sky became bright but seeing as it gets light at 3am in Moscow it wasn’t the latest of nights.

On the journey back to Ibiza I was able to put things into perspective. The result didn’t go England’s way but it’s no disgrace to lose especially when youth has been blooded and experience has been gained. We lasted longer than Germany, Brazil, Argentina & Spain and the young Lions had over achieved in many ways but still a feeling lingered that England will never get an ‘easier’ route into a World Cup Final.  As one of the finalists will find out on Sunday, there can only be one winner but the real star of the tournament has been Russia and specifically Moscow. What a city! Big, busy, vibrant, cosmopolitan and most of all friendly (and did I mention the beautiful women).

As those who live in Ibiza know all too well you should never believe what you read in the papers and this was clearly the case for Russia 2018, a celebration of sport in a country proud of its heritage and looking forward to its future with confidence. And by the way, next time it’s definitely coming home…

Colin Butts: A Tribute

Colin Butts has sadly passed away aged 58 after a brave fight against cancer. He was known to many as the co-owner of Plastik in San Antonio and also as a screenwriter and a published author of 3 books plus 1 more in the pipeline.

After a tough London upbringing Colin’s introduction to Ibiza was as a holiday rep in the 80’s and it was this experience which led him to pen his 1st book ‘Is Harry on the Boat’ in 1997 about a group of first year reps looking for fun. The book was a pre-reality TV, no holds barred expose but wasn’t an overnight success, it was only because of Colin’s tenacious attitude that it eventually went on to sell well into 6 figures.

By this time Colin was living in Ibiza full time and along with his business partners had opened ‘Plastik’ Bar in San Antonio. Colin’s love of music had seen him come up with the idea of merging a recording studio with a record shop and a bar giving something fresh to the town. It gave his numerous celebrity contacts somewhere cool to hang out in San An and the bar soon became a phenomenon.

As luck would have it, a teenage Lily Allen who was working at Plastik introduced Colin’s book to her mother, film producer Alison Owen, who loved it and adapted it as a film with Danny Dyer in his first lead role. After the film’s release, Owen developed a TV series from the book that was screened on Sky One in 2002/3.

Even though Plastik was now breaking records Colin’s passion for writing continued as he published a sequel to his first book. ‘Is Harry Still on the Boat’ was released in 2003 quickly followed by his 3rd book in 2004 called ‘A Bus Could Run You Over’ once again using Ibiza and his personal experiences as the backdrop. This book would eventually go on to become a major motion picture called ‘White Island’ starring Billy Zane and a fitting tribute to the man.

For all his bluster ‘Buttsy’ was a sensitive and private man with a sharp intellect. When he was diagnosed with cancer he vowed to fight the disease with all his might doing his own research into alternative medicine and becoming very knowledgable about the subject. He sold his Ibiza house and moved back to the UK with his beloved dog Chani to get the best possible treatment and care. His attitude was inspiring as he fought to the end with dignity and humility with his great friend Steve Lawrence by his side.

Colin will be fondly remembered by many from his early years in London to his glory days in Ibiza. Not many people can say they made a real difference but Colin was a pioneer in many ways, bridging the Ibiza hierarchy gaps with his experience and personality, bringing a touch of glamour to San Antonio when it needed it most and moving in showbiz circles before social media even existed. He may have looked like an East End gangster on the outside but underneath he was an unassuming and shy gentle giant with a caring nature and a great sense of humour.

He has now exited the stage but through his writings and TV work Colin Butts has left a legacy that can never be taken away. He will be greatly missed.

Footballers Arrest Serves as a Warning to Others

News that 3 young men including 2 English professional footballers have been arrested in Ibiza for alleged sexual aggression is sad but sadly not unsurprising.

It’s a tragic story and no matter what the eventual outcome, the damage has already been done. Every parents nightmare, the alleged victim going through hell and fledgling careers lying in ruins.

It’s a snapshot of the 21st century where pro footballers from all leagues are put on pedestals and treated with reverence whilst being paid exorbitant sums of money to kick a leather ball around a green field.

Here in Ibiza we get an influx of footballers from middle May to late June. They come from teams from all over the world, attracted by the bright lights and promise of a hedonistic paradise. They come in their droves, world superstars like Messi and Ronaldo who love the island so much they have bought or want to buy hotels over here. The lower league journeymen also love to experience the white isle as well as the young professionals just starting out in the unforgiving world of professional football.

As in all walks of life, everyone is different. The superstars have their big entourages, the journeymen bring their wives and/or families but it is the young impressionable players who usually end up in trouble as we have witnessed here this last week.

Out of the bubble of the kindergarten that is modern day professional football where players are told where to be, what to do, what to eat and how to conduct themselves, Ibiza must be like a big playground with no parents or coaches to order you around while the hangers on who love a bit of reflected glory facilitate free entry to clubs and the availability of anything at any time.

While the superstars charter the superyachts the young lads from the lower leagues hang around the bars of San Antonio and Playa den Bossa cashing in on what little bit of fame they possess, 16 appearances for a league 2 club can be major currency if used effectively.

When word goes out that the footballers are in town, a procession of reality TV obsessed youngsters are paraded past. Which self respecting teenager doesn’t want a footballer on their instagram feed, just imagine how many likes that photo will get. Ibiza + Footballer = social media gold.

Young footballers are on holiday and away from the pressures of profesional sport so are entitled to let off steam without being bothered too much. The problem is that in the age of the smartphone they won’t get any peace or quiet unless they are holed up in a private villa and what’s the fun in that for a young lad?

Their favourite hangouts of Ocean Beach, Blue Marlin and Ushuaia are full of eager hangers on who will facilitate almost anything. This is where the danger starts and a young lad can sometimes get his head turned in an ‘anything goes’ environment.

Of course there’s no harm in a bit of fun but all of a sudden with too much indulgence taking place, things can get serious very quickly: You can do what you want in Ibiza after all? Well actually no!

It’s important to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, there’s always 3 sides to every story but this sad episode has already claimed its victims. Parents blaming themselves for giving their young girls too much slack, the alleged victim and her friend who were having fun until it wasn’t funny anymore and will no doubt blame themselves for getting into the situation, not to mention the trauma that will stay with them for a long time to come.

Whatever the outcome of the legal process the young footballers will now be tarnished forever, their club playing damage limitation, their parents dreams in tatters and all the while, Ibiza gets dragged through the press, guilty by association.

Justice will be served but the process in Spain can be slow but this story should be a warning for all young football players and all of those who come with them. Fun in the sun is fine but never cross the line, 16 appearances for any team doesn’t give anyone the right to act disrespectfully or unlawfully, especially to the impressionable hangers on who are often too young and naive to know any better.

English Footballers Arrested in Ibiza for “Sexual Assault” on 19 year old Girl

3 young men including 2 professional footballers* from an English 3rd tier club (believed to be Charlton Athletic) have been arrested after an alleged sexual assault at a hotel in San Antonio Bay.

A 19-year-old British girl has alleged that one of the youngsters sexually assaulted her while another held her tightly and a third recorded the act with a mobile phone.

According to judicial sources, the young woman has been examined by professionals of the Legal and Forensic Medicine Institute of Ibiza who confirmed that a sexual assault had taken place.

The alleged victim and a friend had gone back to the hotel with the players after meeting them in a local bar.

The parents of the alleged victim reported the incident to the police early the next morning after the girls returned to their hotel.

The players have all been detained and are due in court today.

NOTE: *Players now named as Karlan Ahearne-Grant & Reeco Hackett-Fairchild

Source: Periodico de Ibiza

The Resurgence of Eden Ibiza

San Antonio is facing some challenges over the next couple of years but a bright spot on the horizon is the resurgence of Eden Nightclub.

After the Gatecrasher debacle (where it closed half way through the season) plunged it to an all time low Eden has gradually clawed it’s way back up through hard work and realistic objectives.

It’s difficult to overstate how important a fully functioning world class nightclub is to San Antonio so Eden’s comeback is great news for the town and also for the young tourists who flock to the islands main gateway for 18-25’s.

Playa den Bossa has been the big opposition over the last few years but they are now facing their own challenges while Eden are reaping the rewards of their hard work.

The bright lights of Bossa has been a big draw with Bora Bora, Ushuaia, Space, Sankeys and all the other beach bars and in many ways Eden wasn’t seen as a viable alternative so the workers and tourists almost had no option but to go there for better parties but now that tide has turned.

Sankeys is under new ownership and struggling to find it’s place in the brutal Ibiza market (exactly as Eden had struggled 4 years previously), Hi’s strategy of targeting the ‘VIP’ market and Ushuaia’s over reliance on big EDM artists and production (a genre which is in decline) has left a gap in the market for San Antonio and specifically Eden to put on some old fashioned crowd pleasing parties.

Joining forces with Defected on Sunday nights has proved to be a defining moment although when it was announced back in early 2017 many didn’t quite know how it was going to pan out.

Eden and Defected had been traveling on different paths but came together at a great time for both sides. Defected had built up their brand but were running out of Ibiza options. They had done Pacha then went to Booom (remember that?), then they went to Ushuaia and Ushuaia Tower, they also had the terrace at Amnesia on Tuesdays and then they took a year out to weigh up their next move. Even though the Pacha years put them on the Ibiza map it was never their spiritual home, theres usually only one winner when dealing with Pacha.

While at Booom, licence problems forced Defected to stick there toe in San Antonio waters with a couple of one-off parties at Eden which were a roaring success but the club wasn’t a credible enough venue then unlike now.

Eyebrows were raised when Defected announced they would be doing Sundays at Eden but it’s turned out to be an inspired decision looking at the competition. Solomon at Pacha which is a sellout (and practically no guest list). Rumors at Destino is too far for San Antonio crowd, Blue Marlin is difficult to get to and expensive and Zoo Project and Ocean are daytime so the ‘party on crew’ will end up at Eden. Important to note that Cream at Hi hasn’t started yet but has gone totally EDM, so might not attract too many from San Antonio.

Eden is now under the ownership of Dutch businessmen Michael van de Kuit and Rinco Soesman with Dermot Condon proving a canny choice as general manager and through their vision and hard work the credibility issues are a thing of the past and they have managed to succeed in the phone camera generation.

For 2018 Eden have put together a dynamic package of nights that will appeal to all plus new laws will see the majority of bars in San Antonio close at 3am so Eden’s 6am licence should mean they pick up the local late trade especially with their reasonable door prices and worker friendly attitude.

All these little things are adding up so after a few tough years Eden is back where it belongs: on the top table of Ibiza clubs.