Spanish Amber No Surprise Unfortunately

Yesterday’s announcement from the UK government that Spain will be on the amber travel list in their traffic light system shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone aware of the guidelines set down my Boris Johnson and his cohorts.

The reality is that even though the parameters were very clear and that Spain has had over 5 months to get its act in order, the excruciatingly slow rollout of the vaccine has meant that not enough of the population has been jabbed to drive down the stats to a level where we become a low risk country open to travel without restrictions.

On the other side Portugal seems to have played a blinder and as holiday bookings to the Algarve surge today, the Spanish costas will be taking cancellation after cancellation, for May and June at least.

Ibiza’s over reliance on tourism means that along with the other holiday islands the decisions of other governments affect our economy more than other Spanish cities and provinces but this doesn’t seem to matter to those in Madrid and Barcelona (and maybe even Palma) who have other industries to fall back on.

The importance of tourism to the islands and the Spanish economy makes the slow and ponderous vaccine rollout even more bewildering. Either our elected leaders are too stupid to understand the high stakes or they are just too lazy to genuinely care. Us Balearic commentators have been calling it for a while that unless we show more urgency and a greater self survival instinct then it will be another rollercoaster summer.

Yet a Balearic government kowtowing to their Madrid leaders and colleagues have delivered us to this point with their lack of leadership and grasp of the situation while promising help to small businesses with an application process so mired in red tape that you have to be a masochist to even get involved.

All is not lost through so we shouldn’t be too downbeat and the clear objective now must be to step up the vaccination rollout in the coming weeks so that our numbers stay sufficiently low to get the UK green light at the end of June. This will signal a 4 month season that will save many islanders from bankruptcy, destitution and another winter of long food bank queues.

Contrary to popular opinion Ibiza is open now, there are plenty of non-British tourists knocking around and the weather is glorious. This is not down to our leaders but down to our beautiful island being on many’s wish list even in these difficult times. It’s clear that there’s still a big demand to come here but our leaders are currently letting us down with their lethargy. The inquest, when it comes, will be long and ugly.

Ibiza’s ‘Slow De-escalation’ Continues

New measures for Ibiza are set to be announced this Friday that will last for at least 2 weeks.

The Balearic Government has decided to continue its plan of a ‘slow de-escalation’ (in the words of President Francina Armengol) to counter the threat of new variants plus the need to get to June with low incident numbers to enable the reactivation of the tourist season whilst allowing the vaccine program to kick in.

Bar and restaurant interiors look continue to be closed but terraces will be allowed to open to 100% capacity with 4 per table while removing the maximum 2 household per table rule.

In a strange twist a split timetable is being mooted with terraces open until 5pm everyday and then again in the evenings from 8.30-10.30pm BUT only for Monday to Thursday with weekends reverting to terraces closed at 5pm.

Shops can stay open until 9pm with large stores able to open on Sunday’s and bank holidays.

Social and family gatherings continue to be for a maximum of 6 people with no household limit for outside but a limit of 2 households for inside and the general curfew is put back an hour to 11pm. Sports competitions will also be allowed to resume for those under 12 years of age.

The new measures are sure to split opinions once again but it’s also a sign that Ibiza is slowly moving in the right direction.

Via Diario de Ibiza

Ibiza Vaccine Countdown…We Think

As May, the historical start of the tourist season, fast approaches it’s fair to say that the ‘mass vaccination program’ hasn’t been what many of us had hoped for with photos in the local press (such as above) showing a handful of bemused people in the vast space of the Ibiza exhibition centre waiting for their jab. A million miles away from where we hoped to be.

There’s an argument that Spain is doing all it can in the face of a lack of vaccination supply due to EU failings and this can’t be denied but if I was to play devils advocate I’d argue that the Spanish holiday Islands have a totally different set of requirements to anywhere else in the country and possibly should be prioritised as we are seeing in the Greek islands.

Madrid, Barcelona and major Spanish cities have other industries to fall back on and have carried on regardless (especially Madrid) while the Balearic economy has been totally decimated. Ibiza has been overly affected by a pandemic that has seen travel bans from foreign governments and as a ratio of population affected the island must be right up there. As tourism has come to a grinding halt the food bank queues have got longer.

Now is crunch time. Now is when we need to show the world that Ibiza and the Balearics is a ‘safe destination, that the virus numbers are under control and that we have a strategy in place to ensure that they don’t spike again. A 2 pronged attack of testing arrivals and the vaccinating the local population in the hope that the Balearics is separated from the mainland and put on the safe travel list that enables tourists to travel freely without too many restrictions.

The reality is that daily press headlines aren’t reflected on the street coupled with the frustrating flip flopping with the Astra Zeneca vaccine. First it was only for the under 55’s then it was suspended due to potential blood clots issues (that weren’t directly attributed to the vaccine) then it was reintroduced for those under 65 then it was suspended again and when it was finally given the green light it was decided that it was now only for the over 60’s. Confused?

The AZ decisions went directly against the advice of the US, European and UK advisory/regulatory organisations which is a massive call when so many peoples lives rely on getting back to relative normality, If the capital of Spain was in Palma and not Madrid then the Spanish government might be more bullish with it’s decision making.

It’s not all negative as there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We have been told (again) that the ‘mass vaccination program’ is now going to be ramped up but like Peter and the wolf, when you are told the same thing over and over again and it doesn’t materialise you become a bit punch drunk but this weeks unveiling of an online bookable system for the jab is a big step forward and is a cause for optimism that we might actually catch up.

As San Antonio Mayor Marcos Serra said last week the press headlines about the vaccination program need to be converted into reality and the next 6 weeks should signpost the way forward with a clear roadmap. With more vaccines coming on to the market and delivery issues starting to be resolved let’s hope that this is the beginning of the end and not just the end of the beginning.

Ibiza Needs Tourism…..BUT

As predicted by many, including myself, the Balearic Government announced this week that flights would be arriving en masse from Germany over the Easter period. This could change as Germany may go into another national lockdown but the message has been received loud & clear by us all: We will open our borders at the drop of a hat for the tourist dollar no matter what the implications.

All this news comes as Germany reports ‘exponential growth’ in infections whilst Ibiza has managed to substantially bring down its numbers. It hasn’t been easy to do – restaurants, bars and big stores have been closed for several weeks only reopening in the last few days. Movement has been restricted, Ibiza has done what it’s been told (kind of), most have played by the rules and we are coming out on top.

The method behind the madness of potentially letting in thousands of tourists from a country with more contagions than your own is very simple…MONEY. The vast majority in the Balearic archipelago earn their income from tourism. The Balearics and especially the 3 smaller islands are 1 trick ponies, we have very little else. The only ones who don’t rely on tourism are the migrants who retired and relocated or those who earn their coin in the cyber-world or off island whilst enjoying the lifestyle that 300 days of sunshine per year affords you.

If someone says, ‘close the borders until it’s all over’ or ‘forget about tourism’ then I can 100% guarantee that they don’t need this industry to feed their family or put shoes on their children’s feet. It’s a fantastic position to be in and these are the lucky ones but most of us in Ibiza and the Balearics desperately need the cash flow and income that tourism brings especially as the Spanish government has been woefully inadequate in stepping up and helping out with a convoluted system that promises little and delivers even less. Every day there is talk of financial assistance but scratch away at the surface and the process is so difficult and arbitrary that few know how to or have the will to apply.

The bottom line is that the Balearics desperately needs tourism but luckily it can still afford to be selective and this is where the decision to resume tourism at Easter becomes even more bizarre. Easter lasts for 10 days but many will travel for a week or less.

Faced with a long summer ahead of us including the 3 main months of mid June to Mid September, where the overwhelming profit is earned, are we really going to take a risk for a handful of days at the start of April where only a select few will benefit? Have we really worked this hard up until now to let down our guard just for a few days? Wouldn’t it be better to stay closed for a short time longer so infections can lower further and more vaccines can be administered?

Those arriving, national and international, will need a negative PCR certificate to enter and also fill out the usual online forms but as we saw at Christmas, when the same provisions were in place, this isn’t a failsafe system. We need tourism, we live off tourism but we also need to be sensible with a clear and concise plan that allows for all eventualities.

Like the flu this virus isn’t going to disappear so we need to learn to live with it and some calculated risks may have to be taken along the way but only when the rewards outweigh these risks. Easter, in my humble opinion, is too much too soon.

Will Ibiza 2021 Happen?

The BIG Question

Will Ibiza 2021 Happen? This is the question I’m asked more than any other. The desperation for a holiday is growing and many are starting to plan for the summer, looking for any morsel of information with the hope that life can return to something resembling normal.

As many industry leaders have alluded to, Spain simply can’t afford to keep its doors closed for another summer, the economic fallout would be devastating for a country already on its knees (but doing a good job of concealing it). The debate about opening up at Easter has shown that the issue is front and centre. It went from ‘never’ to ‘possibly’ to ‘probably’ in the space of a few days. The pressure is already mounting for Spain and especially the islands to open sooner rather than later.

Ibiza summer 2021, in my opinion, will definitely happen but many factors will dictate who can get here and what they can do once they are here. Separate countries have their own agendas so mixed messages are constant about who can travel and when that can start although there does appear to be a collective will to get on with things but only when it is safe to do so.

The key issue is the vaccination program which is running at differing paces all over the world but this will level out over the coming weeks and months as more vaccine availability comes to the market, it won’t be long until we are buying it in petrol stations and newsagents.

Cyprus has already stated that they will welcome the ‘jabbed’ with open arms but they will also continue to accept PCR certificates on arrival and I think this will become the short term standard, this summer will be all about ‘proof’, being able to prove that you have had a vaccination or that you have had a negative test within 72 hours of travel.

It’s logical that a ‘vaccination passport’ will follow in time but as some countries are ahead of the curve while others are lagging behind this summer will be about creating an acceptable framework for arrivals while trying not exclude anyone who can prove they’re healthy but also retaining integrity and control. It will be a fine balance.

Balearic airports may also continue to offer test on arrival but it remains to be seen if this is viable for mass tourism but as techniques become speedier and more simplified it could be a short term solution. The bottom line is that tourist destinations need to protect themselves by offering a safe destination and those that do will ultimately be the market leaders in 2021 so the the stakes are very high.

Getting here is only half of the story because every destination needs to offer its tourists something to do. The turquoise blue sea, beautiful beaches and amazing climate are always going to be here but what about the restaurants, bars and clubs? As we saw in 2020 there’s no shortage of Ibiza entrepreneurs ready and able to tinker with their product to cater for the ever changing nature of post-pandemic travel.

2021, I think, will continue in the same vein as last summer where large gatherings in one place without social distancing were a definite no-no. Beach clubs adapted by going full chill out and restaurants and bars used terraces and outdoor space to the maximum while keeping tables apart. Unless there’s a major shift in a short time the large clubs will either have to adapt their environments or wait for the green light which could come as soon as mid to late summer but only if the data is positive and that’s a big ‘if’.

I’m expecting a quiet start to the summer but gaining in strength throughout the season with the realistic prospect that by mid to late summer the White Isle might be back to something like we all remember (it could be the busiest October we’ve ever seen). There will be twists and turns along the way but Ibiza 2021 is moving in the right direction, the outlook is positive.

Ibiza’s Blossoming Positivity

Taste, feel and breathe Ibiza

The Ibiza weather is getting better, the almond blossom is on the trees and the summer vibes are becoming more positive by the day. It’s still a little early to jump in with both feet but after the rough rollercoaster ride we’ve had over the the last 12 months there are small shoots of hope emerging.

Ibiza’s infections are tumbling, halving every 7 days, and despite the EU vaccine fiasco the Balearic government has announced a massive vaccination drive from the end of March – which is only 4 weeks away. Although many island residents won’t be jabbed until the summer a pathway is becoming clear.

News from the UK is very positive too with its vaccination programme surging ahead and Prime Minister Boris Johnston announcing a roadmap back to some form of normality by mid June including international travel which might resume in May and with all adults vaccinated by the end of July. The UK have got many things wrong but they have been spot on with their vaccination drive.

Easter will come too early for tourism in Ibiza and even though it’s the main Spanish holiday (except for August) the island authorities have already hinted that border controls will remain in force, which is entirely correct in my opinion. The biggest disaster would be to open up for a week at Easter only to then have to lock down again afterwards encroaching into the lucrative summer months and putting doubt into the mind of the potential tourists.

Although other island destinations have signalled that they will only allow vaccinated tourists to enter its doubtful whether Ibiza has the will or the appetite to enforce this so PCR certificates, antigen tests on arrival will continue for the foreseeable future as the first line of deterrent for those who can’t prove they’ve had the jab.

Like flu, the coronavirus isn’t going away so expectations need to be managed and the odd outbreak over summer will be inevitable so social distancing measures will have to stay in place which means 2021 might be too early for busy nightclubs and bars but many other businesses showed last summer that working within these constraints is do-able. Entrepreneurs always find a way and this is one thing that Ibiza isn’t short of.

So for now we remain vigilant, not letting down our guard but also mindful that summer is just around the corner and if the news carries on in the same vein we will soon be able to start taking the first steps to recovery. It won’t be easy and the road ahead will doubtless have a few bumps but for the first time in almost a year there’s a genuine air of positivity and realistic expectation that we can start again.

Olvidemos de Semana Santa y concentramos en Salvar el verano

La historia puede enseñarnos muchas cosas y lo que ha quedado patente en el último año es que si bajamos la guardia demasiado pronto, a la larga pagamos más.

La curva COVID de Ibiza está a la vista. El pasado mes de agosto, cuando nuestras defensas estaban bajas y el turismo nacional, principalmente, estaba ocupado, sin ningún tipo de salvaguarda, las cifras se dispararon teniendo un gran impacto en la isla y haciendo que el verano se detuviera. El otoño fue tranquilo hasta los primeros días de diciembre, junto con las prolongadas vacaciones de Navidad, que hicieron que Ibiza pasara de ser la envidia de España a convertirse en la zona más contagiosa de todo el país.

Este viaje no tiene ningún misterio. La apertura de las fronteras conlleva un riesgo y, aunque hay que tener un plan, éste debe ser calculado con una estrategia de fondo.

Al igual que muchos destinos turísticos dedicados, Ibiza está de rodillas. Muchos negocios están en el precipicio, contando las horas hasta que la sangre vital del flujo de caja pueda volver a empezar, pero ahora, más que nunca, necesitamos reabrir lentamente, centrándonos en el verano y para que esto sea un objetivo realista debemos sacrificar cualquier pensamiento de apertura en Semana Santa.

Ahora es el momento de que los gobiernos de Ibiza y Baleares tomen una decisión temprana y mantengan estrictos controles fronterizos hasta, al menos, después de las vacaciones de Semana Santa, con un plan estratégico de vacunación para los residentes. Puede ser la única solución.

Aunque hay que tomar decisiones difíciles, son necesarias para que Ibiza tenga alguna posibilidad de recuperación económica en 2021. Las consecuencias de una apertura anticipada para luego enfrentarse a un nuevo cierre durante los meses de verano son demasiado difíciles de contemplar….

SOS: Save Our Summer

Forget Easter, focus on summer

History can teach us many things and what has been obvious over the last year is that if we lower our guard too early then we pay more in the long run.

The Ibiza COVID curve is there for all to see. Last August when our defences were low and mainly national tourism was busy, without any safeguards in place, the numbers surged having a major impact on the island and causing summer to come to a screeching halt. Autumn was quiet until the early December holiday along with the extended Christmas break that saw Ibiza go from being the envy of Spain to becoming the most contagious area in the whole country.

There is no mystery to this journey. Open borders brings risk and although we need to have a plan in place, it must be calculated with an underlying strategy.

Like many dedicated tourist destinations, Ibiza is on its knees. Many businesses are on the precipice, counting down the hours until the lifeblood of cash flow can start again but now, more than ever, we need to reopen slowly, focusing on the summer and for this to be a realistic target we must sacrifice any thoughts of opening at Easter.

Now is the time for the Ibiza and Balearic governments to make an early decision and maintain strict border controls until at least after the Easter holiday with a clear vaccination roadmap for residents. It can be the only solution.

Although there are tough decisions to be made, they are necessary for Ibiza to have a chance of any form of economic recovery in 2021. The consequences of an early opening only to then face a further lockdown over the peak summer months are too difficult to contemplate.

5 things to do in Ibiza during ‘Lockdown’

‘Lockdown’ number 3 (I think) is here. Social distancing, masks everywhere, shops, bars and restaurants closed… our life really didn’t become easier during the last months. Some may be feeling a bit depressed and no wonder being confronted daily with changing rules, negative news and being constantly told what you cannot do. In times like these it helps to shift the focus so instead of more Covid News, here’s a compilation of things you CAN actually do at the moment.

1. COOK

Courgette Kofta by Paul Reynolds

Yes, our favourite restaurant is closed and we miss going out for dinner with friends but isn’t now the perfect time to tune up your cooking skills? Good food doesn’t mean you have to go out! So give that homemade lasagna a try, discover something new you never cooked before (a delicious vegan recipe), or bake that cake you never had time to do before. The web is full of free recipes. Check social media like Pinterest for inspiration or have a look at Ibiza Cookdown on Facebook started by a group of local foodie residents (Danny Sarah and Paul Reynolds take centre stage) and when the lockdown is over, you will be ready to smash those amazing dinner parties with your friends once again.

2. WALK

Puente de piedra – Cala d’Albarca

Ibiza is blessed with great weather and the island is even more beautiful now when everything is quiet. So put on those boots or trainers and discover new paths, new beaches, new landscapes, new views and parts of the island you’ve only ever heard or read about but never had the time to see with your own eyes. There is more to discover than you can ever imagine, and all it takes is a bit of time and good shoes. For a collection of walks around the island have a look at Walking Ibiza and for inspiration check out Ibiza Xplore on Instagram.

3. EXERCISE

Gyms might be closed for now but that’s no excuse – all you need is a mat and youtube – and your home gym is complete. Check out the free online videos and set yourself a daily routine, whether it’s HIIT, cardio or, if you have never tried it before, now is the perfect time to finally start that yoga class! Just 30 minutes a day could make a big difference. Your body will thank you later. Remember, swimsuit season is around the corner, despite the pandemic.

4. DE-CLUTTER YOUR HOME

We spend most of the time in our homes now anyway, so why not use this time to give our spaces an upgrade. Now is the perfect time to de-clutter, clean, reorganize and maybe even decorate room by room. If you want to see how masters do it: Japanese organisational expert Marie Kondo is a legend. Sista Sorta also offer this service in Ibiza

5. LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Selfcare is THE buzzword during the pandemic. We are even kind of forced to take care of ourselves during this time. Also they say time invested in yourself is never lost, hey? So why not learn or try something new, something you have never done before? Maybe try meditation for a whole week, grow some plants on your balcony or garden, do an online course in a topic that interests you, learn a language online, the list is endless. This is the time do something that you’ve always wanted to do.

Most important of all is to Stay Positive, Do something positive every day (even small steps make a difference) and when the world is back to normal, we will be more ready than ever to make Ibiza one of the greatest places in the world yet again.

Additional text by CM at Chakra Kitchen

Time to Talk about ‘The V Word’

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough start to the year on the White Isle. Ibiza’s Covid-19 numbers have hit an all time high after the Christmas festivities where common sense was thrown out of the window, we are once again scratching our heads and looking for the way forward.

It’s now February which means that Spring is just around the corner yet it feels like we’ve gone 2 steps forward and 5 steps back. Before Christmas Ibiza’s numbers were the envy of the rest of Spain but now we are the poor relations, hidden away and confined to quarters until further notice. When we hoped to be preparing for a summer season we are still looking for a way out of this almighty mess.

With close to 4000 active cases Ibiza and Formentera is perilously close to tipping point with unprecedented pressure being applied to the health service on a daily basis. The mass screenings across the island have pushed up the numbers and even though the majority of cases are asymptomatic the hospitals are reaching breaking point.

All the while us British ex-pats have to endure the UK news telling us how many Brits are being vaccinated daily. Over the last few months it’s become clear that the vaccine is the only real way out of this situation if we want to get back to some form of normality. It’s Boris Johnson’s ‘get out of jail free card’ and boy is he playing it to it’s full extent.

Nearly 10 million UK people have been jabbed, friends are putting up photos every day of their parents, grandparents or of themselves. Regardless of the total ineptness of what went before even Matt Hancock, one of the most useless politicians of my lifetime, is coming out smelling of roses after it was revealed that he rejected a contract that might have meant losing control of the Oxford vaccine that eventually went to Astra Zeneca. When Halfwit Hancock starts to look good you know we are on weird street.

Now what relevance does the UK vaccine numbers have on us here in Ibiza? Not a lot apart from showing us how it should be done because on the same day the UK was jabbing record amounts of arms it was revealed that Ibiza had vaccinated only 500 people so far on an island of around 150,000 who’s world has been turned upside down more than most due to it’s over-reliance on tourism.

The Spanish are famous for their ‘mañana’ attitude and Ibiza takes this attitude to the extreme but this is one fight we need to face head on and grab the bull by the horns. Unfortunately Francina Armengol, the leader of the Balearic parliament, seems incapable of fighting our corner lurching from 1 crisis to another, issuing soundbites that make no sense and sucking up to her boss in Madrid, Pedro Sanchez, without sticking up for the islands she gets paid very well to represent.

Like most politicians, Sra Armengol had a free pass last year as nobody knew what was happening or how to react however 1 year on and she’s still fumbling around in the dark trying to reassure islanders while flying in to take away liberties, shame she didn’t go hardball 2 weeks before Christmas. Reacting has become her byword earning her the nickname Armageddon as the protesters who took to the streets of Palma over the weekend can testify.

The Balearics continue to be the whipping boys of Spain, happy to roll over and let the Madrid politicians tickle our belly and throw us a small treat from time to time to quell the rabble rousers even though our economy has been decimated more than most.

Ibiza didn’t cover itself in glory during the holiday period but we deserve better than this, even the Falkland Islands, a sheep-farming outpost over 8000 miles away has a better strategy than Ibiza does – one of the worlds most iconic tourist destinations.

We urgently need a structured roll out of the vaccine where everyone is kept in the loop and so we can see some glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel. Is that too much to ask? Melia Hotels CEO Gabriel Escarrer has said that we need to have a clear roadmap for vaccines including 24/7 availability with a private and public strategy and he is bang on the money. While we continue to dither we can see summer slipping away right before us.

Rather than soundbites and broken promises it’s time for Sra Armengol to stand up and fight for the islands, breaking with party lines if needed. If Bumbling Boris Johnson can come out of this well then so can she. Every day without a realistic plan is a day wasted, the clock is ticking, a lot of people’s livelihoods depend on it and it’s a matter of life and death in more ways than one.