Ibiza smiling again but not a time to celebrate yet

So it’s here. After much talk, hearsay and conjecture the UK Government finally put the Balearic Islands on their ‘green list’ and the Brits have started to arrive in their droves.

For those who have been hiding under a rock (and I don’t blame you btw) British tourists now arriving in the Balearic islands do not have to quarantine on their return but do have to take a post arrival test.

The news was a bit of a surprise but the UK government has been consistent in being inconsistent so it shouldn’t have come as such a shock. The news also started a chain reaction that saw many Ibiza businesses scramble to open, mainly those that rely almost exclusively on the British market.

Ibiza is a truly international destination these days so even without the Brits the White isle has been very busy with its own European invasion. Ibiza town has been rocking for weeks with bars showing the Euro football championships on their terraces creating a vibrant and charged atmosphere. The British market is the final piece of the jigsaw and will be very welcome especially in San Antonio which has struggled without its main market.

As much as the news has been welcomed, it also comes with a big caveat. The Balearics are on the UK green ‘watch list’ which enables the UK government to remove a destination with very little notice if they see a rise in infections.

This arbitrary decision making is significant because as we saw when Portugal was put on the green list and then quickly removed, it creates a lack of confidence for travellers to commit to an expensive overseas holiday that might have to be cancelled although I’m pleased to say theres still plenty of demand for San An over Skegness.

So we can be thankful that business is starting to resume but also remember that the rug can be ripped away from us at any time if infection numbers rise dramatically. As we have seen over the last week with a major outbreak amongst several hundred teenage students in Mallorca celebrating the end of school, it’s still too early to let our guard down.

This isolated incident is a sobering reminder that not only will we be walking a Covid tightrope for some time to come but also that Balearic businesses, especially those that attract the party crowd, have a collective responsibility to control their customers as much as possible to minimise the risk of rising infection levels. No one likes a party pooper but after the last 16 months the stakes are too high to throw common sense out of the window.

The last 2 weeks have been a real turning point, it’s amazing to see Ibiza come to life once again. It’s been a long time coming and we should enjoy every day as it comes but with many businesses still unable to open or function to capacity there’s still a long way to go to get back to where we were. Smiles are returning but we aren’t out of the woods just yet.

Adiós San An Workers, it was ‘Fun’

For many years the ‘San An Worker’ was a mainstay of Ibiza’s famous west coast resort.

They were easy to spot and even easier to manipulate. They came in their thousands renting small apartments and using them as dormitories, spending all day in bed, searching for guest list freebies like a heat seeking missile and even starting their own eco-system, culture and vocabulary.

A moment in time that organically appeared, a rite of passage for thousands, an era that lasted for more than a decade. You just have to look at the Facebook groups to see the misty eyed nostalgia that this time evokes amongst middle aged men and women talking about the best time of their lives when life was simpler and when all you had to worry about was the next meal and the next party.

‘Worker’ was always a curious collective noun for a group of young Brits who did nearly everything except work. Their priority was to have fun, workers parties became part of the fabric of San Antonio – free entry, cheaper drinks, worker friendly door staff and DJ’s. A whole culture and micro economy evolved from the freedom that Ibiza gives those willing to immerse themselves. Late nights, even later mornings, a lifestyle that would give your parents nightmares.

A few stayed on the island and settled down like modern day hippes but most shuffled off back to the UK, battered and bruised to shocked parents, friends and partners who couldn’t grasp the carnage that went before.

Workers were a scourge to many and a licence to print money for others but nothing lasts forever. Brexit and Covid changed the rules of the game along with an Ibiza housing shortage that has seen the majority of summer apartments rented annually for better and more stable returns. Ket Castle isn’t a madhouse anymore, it’s now Es Pons, an oasis of calm for private residents.

Things change, evolution is unstoppable but how can we not look back with a knowing nod and a wink on an era that gave us the Sh*t Party and the Peru 2. Shipwrecked, Dirty Rotten Sluts, grimy wristbands, workers club passes, Ket Cove, Space closing and it’s fallout, the Eden back room and after hours parties at Wips….a supermarket. We can also include Star Cafe and then New Star for those of a certain vintage. Daily crises a plenty, you really had to be there to believe it!

Will those days ever return? It’s doubtful as the factors that have rendered them almost extinct won’t be changing any time soon but the Ibiza workers spirit lives on but the modern version actually work for a living yet come together in their spare time to party and chill. An older crowd, a few trustafarians, those who eek a living online while Clockwork Orange have wound back the clock with their Ibiza weekender that emotes of long gone days and pure nostalgia.

Ibiza has changed beyond recognition in a relatively short space of time. It’s still a haven for the free-spirited crowd but the days of the masses having the summer of their lives is something we can look back on with a smile (or a grimace) and for now it’s confined to the history books. As the saying goes…..don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

Time to ‘Hug’ a Tourist

Something strange happened in Ibiza about 10 days ago. The place became alive. It wasn’t not alive before but this was something entirely different. The roads were chaotic with erratic drivers, the streets busy and the shops were bustling.

12 months ago we didn’t know what the next day or week would bring but this year Ibiza feels like it should, like a summer season is about to start. The difference is tangible. We still have a long way to go until we’re back to pre-pandemic normality but it finally feels like the clouds are lifting and the island is on the road to recovery.

The main reason is because there are plenty of tourists around. It’s not the mass tourism that we’re used to but they are definitely here. Germans, Swiss, French and other nationalities enjoying an Ibiza experience like no other. We are missing the Brits but bars and restaurant terraces are vibrant, smiles are returning to faces. There’s still challenges ahead but you get the sense that the end of the crisis is in sight.

If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that Ibiza needs to value it’s tourists more. For years we’ve taken them granted, turning up in there plane-loads with pockets full of money, happy to spend even when the service hasn’t always been exemplary.

This relentless wave of new arrivals backed up by clever entrepreneurs keeping Ibiza fresh and relevant gave us a sense of entitlement that in turn gave rise to the anti-tourist brigade. These second and third generation idealists excel in peddling misinformed propaganda where everything that is wrong with Ibiza is down to tourism, a convenient way of passing the blame on to those who have no voice in the local political arena.

Many still question the need for so much tourism yet COVID has proven beyond doubt that the blood that runs through the veins of the White Isle are those who arrive on flights for a few days of fun in the sun spending their hard earned cash and then spreading the word upon their return home. Not only are they our only true commodity, they are also our biggest form of advertising.

COVID may change the way people travel, it might even signal the end of the mass tourism we knew before. Quality over quantity might not be a bad thing for a small island stretched to its limits but now more than ever, there should be no doubt about the importance of tourism. Of course it brings issues but they have to be overcome in a rational way balancing the needs of residents but also understanding that most of the residents are here only because of the tourists.

It might go against the grain for some but now is the time to ‘hug’ a tourist. Not in a physical way but in a metaphorical sense treating them with respect and patience. Ibiza had it ‘easy’ for years, a world leading brand welcoming millions every summer but we’ve now seen the other side and without tourism we are left with nothing more than an empty shell, a playground without children.

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 by 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….