There’s no doubt that the White Isle is rapidly evolving but the one phrase I hear more than any other these days is that Ibiza ‘isn’t what it was’.
I started coming to the island in the 70’s as a small child with my family for the typical bucket, spade and sangria holiday, I missed out on the 80’s but came over in the early 90’s and never left so when it comes to Ibiza’s recent history I can happily say I had a front row seat.
It’s not easy to objectively compare different eras but this debate has been raging since I first set foot on the white Isle, in fact I clearly remember being told that ‘Ibiza isn’t what it used to be’ in my first few days here, the cycle repeats itself every year.
Ibiza constantly changes, it’s a self perpetuating micro experiment of life and always will be. One of the worlds most beautiful islands run by the offspring of farmers and fisherman who had the spotlight thrust on them. In terms of a brand it’s massive, if Ibiza was a Fortune 500 company then it would have a hot-shot CEO but it hasn’t yet it still works.
There’s no debate that the island has changed beyond recognition especially over the last 10 years however every era has its place clearly etched in history.
For those who ‘discovered’ the island in the 60’s there’s still that romantic vision of free love, living in the countryside and big lunches with friends that cost next to nothing but when you analyse it every era has its pros & cons.
When you’re young and fearless with no ties you have an attitude that is totally different to when you’re middle aged with a couple of kids but the island’s magic repeats itself for every generation in different ways. What some see today as a backward step is viewed by others as exactly the reverse.
Like those from the 60’s we all have romantic visions of a time in our lives that was special to us and Ibiza is that seminal place that makes memories for a lifetime so if you return and it’s changed beyond recognition of course it’s not what it was but it doesn’t mean it’s worse, it’s just different.
The early days when I came to Ibiza will forever be a magic time in my life but you could also only get flights for 7 or 14 nights, the roads were death traps, the hotels were basic with no air conditioning and the big clubs were inaccesible to many, mainly through lack of knowledge (no ‘influencers’ in those days!).
Those long mornings on Space terrace can never be repeated but have now been replaced by daytime concerts attended by thousands, beautiful beach clubs and world class nightclubs showcasing the biggest DJ’s as well as emerging talent, it’s different but the joy and the thrill remains the same with the hands in the air moments creating an adrenaline rush and memories to last a lifetime.
The Ibiza of today isn’t without challenges but it’s still an amazing place, making an indelible mark on every generation. The social media obsessed world we live in has created different needs and the ‘new’ Ibiza is just a reflection of that but scratch below the surface and the island still retains the charm and beauty it always has, you just have to stop being part of the herd and work a little harder to find it. Of course Ibiza isn’t what it was, it’s better.
We all know that Ibiza is best known for it’s massive party scene, chic beach clubs, epic parties, world famous DJ’s and hedonistic summer holidays but recently the island has begun to attract a different kind of crowd – those seeking mindfulness, fitness, energy healing and inner balance rather than pure partying.
Over the last few years Ibiza has seen a rapid growth in the demand of what could be called ‘wellbeing-holidays’, the White Island has become a destination for all types of health and healing retreats and particularly yoga retreats which are now more popular than ever. Often it’s not just yoga that’s offered but a full package including meditation, clean eating and digital detox with the focus on feeling good, finding a balance in yourself and even following an inner journey to stillness.
So what makes Ibiza so attractive as a ‘healing destination’? First, Yoga in general is gaining awareness and popularity all around the world, being part of the global mega-trend towers health and mindfulness. Many see yoga and meditation as an effective way to manage stressful lives and taking care of yourself. Secondly, apparently there are not many places around the globe who offer all the right elements to enable these kinds of well-being experiences and this is what Ibiza has in abundance.
It may be rooted in the history of Ibiza, back in the 60’s when the hippies were conquering the island, they were seeking love, peace and happiness and this vibe still exists on the island even though it has been diluted due to the rise of the global party scene over the last 10 years.But there’s no doubt that the island still has this magic about it that acts as a beacon calling energy-healers from all over the world, including everything from reiki to holistic massages to chakra balancing and crystal therapy. Lots of people coming to Ibiza feel that this is a place of freedom, free from social judgement, where everyone can be as they are.
Then there is Es Vedra – the stunning rock formation on the southwest coast of the island which, even though there’s no science to back up the claim, is fabled to be the 3rd most magnetic place on Earth (after the North Pole and the Bermuda Triangle) and to many it represents the tip of the sunken civilisation of Atlantis. In local folklore it’s also the birthplace and holy island of one of Ibiza’s goddesses, Tanit. The incredible aura and beauty of this mysterious place clearly make it a favourite place for meditation as well as other spiritual practices. According to a famous tale, Tanit, who stands for love, dance and healing is also one of the reasons why many females feel so connected with the island’s vibrant energy.
As an added bonus, few places on earth offer such a big contrast of a wide range of wellbeing retreats, while just around the corner you will find the world’s hottest party spots. Also dancing on a table is a form of freedom.
The party crowd will stay for sure but a new generation of Ibiza lovers are now looking at the island with a different perspective which in turn brings many new possibilities for tourism on the White Isle.
Seeing as you can only visit during the peak summer weeks (allegedly) here’s the rules…
1) You are getting a FREE holiday, if you want a lift from the airport then please don’t book a flight that arrives at 2am so you can save 20 euros.
2) I am not God, the weather is nothing to do with me.
3) If you lay in the sun without protection you will burn; if you don’t wear a bikini top someone will stare at your t*ts, get over it!
4) There is no such thing as a self-replenishing fridge – the occasional pack-of-beers, bottle of wine or bag of prawns is most appreciated.
5) I am not a taxi service, if you intend to explore the island then bring your licence and rent a car, even if it’s only for a day.
6) Switch off the damn air-conditioning in your room when you’re not in it, have you seen the electricity dial spin like mad when the air-con is on?
7) NEVER say “what are WE doing today” as you will be physically removed from the premises.
8) SuperClubs are expensive hence why they are called ‘Super’. I’m not going with you, I can’t get you guest list or free drinks and don’t wake me up at 5am when you come back in.
9) If you insist on having drinks at a frontline or sunset bar please do not complain to me that you were charged 15 euros for a gin and tonic – I really don’t care plus it’s only 5 euros in the local bars I frequent.
10) If you have enjoyed your holiday and your FREE stay with friends, why not take them out for a nice dinner? Not a pizza or a Chinese takeaway but a proper restaurant with linen tablecloths and waiters in crisp white shirts; go on, you know you can do it.
Grumpy Island Resident
Adapted from an article in the Majorca Daily Bulletin by my good friend by Frank Leavers
You have to be careful not to talk yourself into a mini-recession but 2019 is turning into one of those strange summers for Ibiza.
On the outside the Island may look busy but scratch a little below the surface and you can see that there’s a definite dip in business compared to previous summers.
No sympathy is required though as Ibiza has seen massive growth over the last decade and has income streams and a spend per capita that other holiday resorts can only dream of but it’s important to recognise and analyse trends within the tourist market.
Northern Europe’s continued hot weather isn’t helping but hotel and villa bookings are down especially during peak season so expect some last minute bargains if you haven’t already booked. There’s several reasons for this and it may signal a change of direction for some businesses.
There’s no doubt that Ibiza has many more competitors than ever before especially in the important family and mid-range segment of the market.
Turkey has made a big return to form offering spectacular prices with Greece and it’s islands such as Mykonos also proving very popular. Croatia is still knocking on the door with its natural beauty and laid back charm. Dubai is proving strong for those wanting a smart getaway although it doesn’t get the heavy summer traffic due to extreme temperatures. Egypt and Tunisia are on the way back too plus many more emerging destinations offering good value for money.
Looking inwardly Ibiza’s VIP obsession shows no sign of stopping as many 2 star hotels build a roof top pool and upgrade to 4 stars charging prices that marginalise a major segment of the market. In the space of 5 years Ibiza has morphed from mid range hotels offering good value to high end hotels with eye-watering prices. When the majority of hotels are chasing the same business there’s going to be winners and losers.
Price is the dominating factor when making decisions and Ibiza is slowly strangling itself by cutting diversity and only going for a certain affluent segment of the market. Brand loyalty is all good and well but it’s a 2-way street and many regulars are feeling hard done by when the hotels they have stayed at for many years raise their prices to levels that are difficult to justify and it’s these people who are now turning to other destinations.
It’s not all bad news though as Ibiza is still one of the most beautiful places in the world and does have an affordable side, albeit not as glamorous but highly attainable as long as you tread carefully but more concerning is that the entry level market is diminishing so less new blood is coming in, when this happens there’s a finite end to the cycle.
Not quite a crisis just yet, more of a blip, so no doom-mongering here but in the modern day Ibiza with so much investment riding on results all trends are over-analysed from bars to boardrooms. Things can change quickly but as we hurtle towards August there’s a few concerned people out there.
The Stormzy 2 day festival not only created challenges in San Antonio but also created much debate about the right and wrong type of tourist for San Antonio.
Stormzy brought the mighty Glastonbury to its knees only 2 days previously and, in the words of a friend of mine who was in the crowd he was “un-f***ing-believable” seamlessly crossing over to mainstream without so much of a hiccup. There’s no doubt he is a talented entertainer but he wasn’t the only one performing at the ‘Merky’ festival and the crowd that is associated with this scene seemed to be seething with attitude trying to make there stay memorable for all the wrong reasons.
I don’t know enough about that scene to make an informed opinion but I do know what I saw with my own eyes in my little town and it wasn’t pleasant. San Antonio has often been accused of not knowing what it wants but I can safely say that we don’t want big sinister groups roaming the town with attitude even if they have got a few quid in their pockets. We already get that for a few weeks in August and that’s more than enough thank you.
But can we afford to be choosy as to the type of tourist we attract? All tourists bring spending money with them and there’s no such thing as bad business right? Wrong! When your little town is getting headlines for all the wrong reasons then you are walking on a tightrope. Some of us still remember the boom after the ‘Ibiza Uncovered’ years followed by a resounding bust.
The organisers of Stormzygate (as I’m now named it) were called before the Mayor to explain themselves so expect an imminent announcement on whether the festival will be repeated in its current format. I have some sympathy with the organisers as this was their 3rd edition and the previous 2 were a big success before being hijacked by the testosterone brigade.
What Stormzy and his amigos have done is present a nice little test for new mayor Marcos Serra who has always been an advocate of live music but who has also been vocal about improving the image of his town in the wake of the previous councils much maligned strategic plan.
Life is nothing if not a learning curve and the Mayor is already at the sharp end and as Stormzygate becomes a mere distant memory San Antonio has other pressing matters to focus on, namely peak season where the heat will rise and other challenges will rear their heads. That’s just how it is on the White Isle. Watch this space.
Stormzy may have triumphed at Glastonbury last weekend but his #Merky festival in San Antonio this week has not been so well received.
On paper it looked like a good idea but San Antonio has been put on full alert as reports of rival south east factions arriving on the white isle leading to a tense atmosphere on the streets of San Antonio.
Videos of sporadic fighting breaking out at the daytime concert did the rounds on social media yesterday coupled with conflicting reports that an unofficial after-party event at a local club was closed down by police the previous night due to lack of security after scuffles inside the venue.
Music festivals are all the rage but large groups in small resorts can be problematic as we have seen here with a big backlash from local residents who are deeply concerned with what they are seeing on the streets of their small town.
Those responsible for organising the event have met with the Mayor to discuss the situation as the festival is now officially over but many will continue to stay and enjoy the island for the rest of the week.
A new centre right alliance has taken over at San Antonio Town Hall for the next 4 years.
The 2015-2019 council is confined to the history books as a once in a generation event. A time when the youth of San Antonio came together, tired of seeing the same snouts in the same trough and the town seemingly on a downward spiral they formed their own political party.
The ‘Reinicia’ Political Party started as a Facebook protest group against the then PP Mayor Pepita Gutiérrez, it gathered momentum and caught the imagination of the 20-40 year olds who had previously been passive in their voting habits.
Reinicia touched a raw nerve with the 2nd and 3rd generation electorate and in their leader Pablo Valdés they found the charismatic talisman that brought them together with a common cause. Valdés, a fiercely intelligent individual, driven by anger at what he was seeing in his town became the mouthpiece of the movement and as their protests at council meetings intensified they decided to do something tangible and start their own political party. On Election Day in May 2015 Reinicia were greatly underestimated by other political parties as their fervent supporters swarmed to the polling stations in their numbers.
They returned 4 councillors which was unheard of for a new political party and in a fragmented election it meant that they had a place at the top table of local government. Their protestations putting residents needs above tourists struck a chord with those who thought that San Antonio was selling its soul to the tourist dollar.
In the 2015 San Antonio election the socialist PSOE party (with ex-PP member Pep Cires as it’s leader) won 6 seats meaning that between them and Reinicia they had 10 seats in the 21 seat chamber. The centre right PP party won 8 seats (down from their previous 12) and The other 3 seats went to the Propuesta Illes party (PI) who had fallen out spectacularly with the PP during the previous 4 years even though they were both centre right parties.
Just like in the 2019 elections, in 2015 the PI party (now known as PXE) with Juan Jose Ferrer as leader found themselves as the power brokers. Even though it was a giant leap for the Centre right PI to join forces with the left wing Reinicia they did it with glee, revenge after all is a dish best served cold.
So the 2015 tri-party coalition was born with much fanfare, I wrote a blog post about it at the time. The 3 leaders assuming the mayor, deputy mayor and 2nd deputy roles. The PP was confined to the opposition benches for the first time ever. Now is a good time to declare that I was a part of this PP team, the worst performing PP team in the history of San Antonio, not a nice feeling but a steep learning curve.
So myself and many others gathered in the town hall in June 2015 to watch as the 13 councillors from 3 different parties took the oath to carry out their duties for the greater good of San Antonio. A change is sometimes required to start afresh but it can also remind us what had gone on before.
All the time the ever-serious Pablo Valdés with his steely gaze determined to do things his way shaking up local politics just like Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias had done at national level. No suit for this guy, along with his 3 Reinicia comrades they were the wild bunch of Ibiza politics sticking up their collective middle finger to the establishment, they had the people behind them after all.
The coalition started off amicably but cracks soon started to show and it was always Valdés in the middle of things. It soon became apparent that PSOE leader Pep Cires was more than happy to leave most things to his young deputy, he would open meetings before slipping off, presumably for an early lunch.
So in effect San Antonio was now in the hands of Valdés, a young radical with no previous political experience and with less than 20% of the seats in the chamber, democracy works in mysterious ways. What was clear though was that Sr Valdés had an agenda and now he had the vehicle to drive it through with a complicit Mayor by his side who had fulfilled his job merely by overseeing the PP’s fall from grace.
Valdés focused on cleaning up the town by negotiating a new street cleaning contract plus culling the excessive West End area which is always at the heart of San An’s biggest challenges and something he viewed as his own personal mission.
But all wasn’t rosy within a coalition of differing values and things started to unravel in August 2017 when a feud between Pablo Valdés and Juanjo Ferrer came to light over the new proposed opening hours for the West End.
Ferrer wanted the terraces to be removed at 2am but a hardline Valdés insisted on 12am midnight. Ferrer thought his compromise proposal was agreed but when he was overruled by Valdés he asked Mayor Cires to back him and when that never came he deemed his position untenable and duly resigned.
Valdés riding roughshod over the chamber became a theme. I personally confronted him on a few occasions about the decision to close bars at 3am in a tourist resort fames for its nightlife, the total lack of security in town and his vagueness about the amount of residents genuinely affected by extreme noise pollution in San Antonio. His tone was was always autocratic and dismissive, viewing myself and others as bothersome citizens with no right to directly cross-examine his decisions.
After Ferrer’s departure the PI Party replaced him with the wily Joan Torres, a canny individual not prone to suffering fools and it soon became clear that the dynamic within the 3 party coalition had changed significantly. PI’s Cristina Ribas became more withdrawn and drifted towards the PSOE so when in early 2019 she announced that she was jumping ship it caused an institutional crisis of sorts. PI demanded her resignation and once again Mayor Cires went against them causing the coalition to permanently break up.
As the political fallout was continuously covered in the press, San Antonio hadn’t improved much and for all the hyperbole and promises the revolution hadn’t taken place, the problems had merely been shifted to other areas rather than being solved. Valdés’ revolution never happened because it wasn’t needed, all that was needed was extra police on the street, a consensus with local business and clear framework for delivering small steps rather than giant strides.
The 2019 vote recognised this and as Valdés disappeared from view during the last months of his tenure his fervent 2015 supporters became passive once again. In a close election the PP went against the national trend and won by a whisker and confined Pablo Valdés and his vision to the history books.
Sr Valdés’ attitude to local business and his dismissive manner means he will be forever loved by some but also hated by others. Where his other council colleagues will be able to walk with their heads held high, his decision to make it his personal mission to ‘clean up’ San Antonio will ultimately be viewed as a divisive era for the town.
The strategic plan for San Antonio that he and his colleagues tried to push through without much consensus was a nice idea but yielded very little in real terms except for a handful of people close to the West End having an extra hour of peace while hard working businesses saw trade tumble through no fault of their own. Meanwhile San Antonio’s tourists were a mere afterthought, mostly treated with contempt which is always a dangerous game to play when you have no other industry to fall back on.
What’s clear from the 2015-2019 experience is that running San Antonio is a big job. The biggest job on the island and you can’t please all of the people all of the time but you can confront the challenge with honesty and humility communicating clearly with the people and explaining why you are making the tough decisions and with as much consensus as possible.
Let’s see how the new council led by Marcos Serra approach the challenge but just like the previous 4 years, the Man in San An will be watching every move.