Residents v Tourists: San An’s Biggest Battle

San Antonio
Whilst on the school run recently an inebriated tourist fell over in front my car in a fit of giggles. Then later in the same afternoon an almost identical thing happened.  Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences.

I couldn’t help sneering at the tourist then instantly regretted my reaction feeling that I’d ‘let the side down’. Tourism is San Antonio’s lifeblood but there in that moment I was wearing my residents cap. I’ve worked in tourism for over 25 years and understand the dynamic so if I felt like this just imagine how some local residents must feel when they see these antics on an almost daily basis.

This is now the biggest challenge for San Antonio, namely getting the balance right between residents needs and tourist requirements to ensure that San Antonio continues to be a busy, vibrant and attractive tourist destination but also a safe and clean place to live. 

Since the change of Mayor in 2015 San Antonio council has mainly sided with residents stating a desire to change the touristic model and putting residents needs above those of tourists. This could be viewed as a high risk strategy as without tourism what do we have? 2016 will be the busiest summer on record for Ibiza but the reality is that Spain is succeeding by default with other destinations off the map however all it takes is one thing to see a seismic shift in fortunes.

Back in the 80s & 90s Ibiza was a very different animal. Very busy in the summer but very quiet in the winter when migrant workers left the Island looking for work. Fast forward to 2016 and Ibiza has doubled in population to 200,000 all year round, there’s a housing ‘crisis’ and an unwillingness to compromise in the summer months that the Island always had before.

To change the touristic model you need the infrastructure and investment and without that you are in effect asking tourists to ‘change’ their ways.  It goes without saying that some San An tourists aren’t the best behaved but with little police presence on the streets it’s not hard to see why.

So now the big challenge for San Antonio is trying to keep everyone ‘happy’ but when you have tourists (young and old), families, kids, residents, businesses, villas, bars, clubs, hotels and schools all living side by side then it’s inevitable that someone is going to have to compromise. The question is: Can we afford for it to be the tourists all the time?

Facebook post from angry resident

Author: Martin Makepeace

Englishman living and working in Ibiza since 1991. Entrepreneur with a passion for villas, boats, sunsets and San Antonio. Read my blogs, listen to my podcasts and catch me on Radio One Mallorca every Tuesday morning.

5 thoughts on “Residents v Tourists: San An’s Biggest Battle”

  1. It’s a great difficulty. I think for the Ibiza residents it would be lovely if the tourist dynamic was changed to the more respectable and higher spending family market. However there is a great deal of uncertainty about that market. Right now in Porto Heli Greece, tourism is down from 40-80% compared to the season two years previous, and it’s shaping up to be a mere 4week season.

    The difficulty I see in this market, is that it’s hard to produce anything unique to cater to them, as there are a huge range of locations and places of a similar climate, similar aesthetics, but ultimately there is a huge range of price tags for these areas. I feel most of these tourists would side with gettin more bang for their buck in a lot of cases.

    What San An has that is unique to the current tourism market, is the low brow, fun, and escapist side of holidaying that this market so enjoys, with one key point. It has the Ibiza label branded on it, which for many makes the location a bit of a Mecca. People are willing to pay money they have saved up over months for this honor, whether it’s disproportionate or not.

    I agree, the behavior of these tourists is at times deplorable, and shameful too. But is it like Martin said, a better police presence and better control of the key trouble times and areas to keep that currently guaranteed income? Is it better the devil you know? For me it’s difficult to say.

    My final thought is whichever direction it takes, I hope that the balance of business income and reputation to residents is successful, as San Antonio truly is a beautiful place. I’d be deeply saddened to see it become a ghost town like some other areas that have had the “cleanup”.


    1. Good thoughtful commentary. I believe the residents view that San An tourism is downmarket to be fundamentally wrong. A little more humility and compromise from both sides would go a long way, IMO we need to cherish our tourists not constantly sneer at them.


  2. You’re in that unique place mate where you’ve been at all three points of the triangle; Tourist, migrant worker and now resident. That experience and knowledge is necessary for a balance in the outcome of something like this. I doubt many of the “decision makers” in a this delicate process can come at it from such an informed position. The most important part of something like that is for there not to be a “winner” but more that all concerned “give a little” to stabilize things. “If it ain’t broken don’t try to fix it” becomes, “It’s a tad tarnished, so let’s polish it up together”. Good article dude!


    1. My main concern is the lack of compromise from the residents which is fuelled by social media. There’s a real wave of anti-tourism in San An and thats a very dangerous game when that’s all we have.


  3. Concerned resident who's concern is focused entirely on caring for our lifeblood of tourism. says:

    I’m losing my patience with the town hall entirely. All talk and no trousers about bettering the town. They are just conjuring up new ways to squeeze even more money out of the bars and businesses whilst all the while delivering less and less in return. Police are not police as we know it. They are not here for our security, they are here to fine the businesses. Report a hoard of pickpockets, prostitutes and drug dealers in the street and nothing happens. Report a bar door being open and the police fall over themselves to get to it to fine them the €500 for it. This is not a security force concerned by the well being of its residents and tourists alike, its a gun for hire.

    Security and image has gotten worse with the town hall’s amateur hour policies and they clearly just want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, rather than fix what we have and better it from within. A clean slate is no good for anyone… Who is going to improve the hotels/bars/restaurants if there are no customers to provide and income to do so? How can we continue to attract customers when our town is being overrun by an absolutely enormous criminal underbelly of blatant, in your face gangs of muggers, drug dealers, street sellers and prostitutes? Who wants to come back to somewhere where they and their friends have been robbed every night, been sexually assaulted 10times a night whilst walking down the street by prostitutes and offered fake sunglasses and a cock-nosed masks 500 times a night?

    Seriously people, what the holy f*ck is going on in this town that not ONE politician can see the real problems and is willing to do anything about it?? Not ONE police officer or guardia officer has said “you know what, I’m going to go and arrest one of these people today. I’m going to do my bit to make this place better” rather than “lets pop to santa ines for a coffee and a fag and be miles away from where all the crime is happening and even then only come when someone reports someone that we can fine.”

    I’m getting tired. I’ve been here too long to think that this is the way that it has to be, but i can’t see me being here much longer when all the good that is done by the business owners of the town being unravelled by the successive town halls total unwillingness to tackle the MAJOR problems we have. They really, honestly, couldn’t get much worse if they tried.

    Oh, we’ve got some new looking bins in town this summer by the way. So thats good. Really.

    Talk about rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic!

    (P.S. Personal details withheld as in person I like to remain positive to all who ask about how we can change the town, but inside I’m dying as I see it fail and in full view of our elected officials who choose to do nothing about it. My inside is talking now.)

    Liked by 2 people

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