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

Author: Martin Makepeace

Englishman living and working in Ibiza since 1991. Entrepreneur with a passion for villas, boats, sunsets and San Antonio. Owner of Ibiza Property Shop and Ibiza Speedboats.

7 thoughts on “Ibiza: The Luxury Myth”

  1. VIP culture has killed the vibe, not entirely but mostly. We have never come to Ibiza for luxury we came for the love of the island, the music, the chilled vibes with reasonably priced drinks. This year we have decided not to visit and it hurts not to be there but feel the club nights are not the same, gentrification of areas actually made it lose some of its charm and just sick of the daytime parties that just want to rinse your pockets of every last €. 😦 Still love Ibiza just not the direction it is moving. Next year will we visit ? Possibly …. Possibly not

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  2. Martin I agree with your article and think its very well written and thought provoking. I agree with the central thesis that the link between cost and quality has broken. The main problem Ibiza will face is when it stops being considered cool to go to Ibiza.

    Its possible thats the general direction of travel at the moment, its just not quite there yet.

    Ibiza needs to question who the core audience is?

    I used to find Ibiza the most interesting place on the planet and part of the reason for this was diversity of the people that were atracted to Ibiza.

    When I first came to Ibiza if I had to bottle what made Ibiza special and what type of people liked to visit Ibiza I would have said it attracted free spirited types.

    I would say if you look at Ibiza now you could split the people who like Ibiza into the following catagories.

    Ravers: id classify these people as people that come predominantly to dance and visit raves. Some of them also like to take drugs. (I would say musicans as well as ravers but I wont as musicians have become virtually extinct now)

    Package holiday tourists. Often these are on all inclusive deals.

    Independant travellers who prefer to book flights and accomodation seperately and spend more time out of their hotel visiting local shops and restaurants and exploring the island often to a greater extent than the package tourists. Some of these are families some DINKYs! (double income no kids)

    Larger louts, stag and hens and people that come to Ibiza to get screwed out of their head magaluf style.

    Real hippies and beatnicks.
    These people are now virtually extinct in Ibiza as they cant afford it.

    Wannabee Hippies usually from a very middle class background who have decided to shun commercialism in favour of an alternative lifestyle that they consider to be cool, often involving veganism, wearing hippy costumes, participating in yoga or playing the bongos etc.

    Rich and sometimes famous people who are attracted to Ibiza for its bohemianism and quirkiness and could not think of anything worse than being treated as a VIP.

    Wannabee Vips. These are not VIPs as such they just aspire to the VIP lifestyle. They like to visit VIP beach bars and pay for ropped off access in the discos.

    VIPs, rich sometimes famous people who like to be treated as they expect a rich and famous person to be treated.

    Locals and their visiting families who are nice friendly cultured people who love their island.

    Local businesspeople and also visiting businesspeople who see Ibiza as a way to make money.

    None of the above but people that just came to Ibiza as they heard it was nice and to see what they thought of it themselves.

    The core root of the problem at the moment is you can’t possibly hope to keep all of the above happy. Ibiza is only a certain size. Its become more and more popular. At some stage it was going to have to make a decision. We cant keep all the groups happy. Which ones do we focus on?

    Some of the groups above dont mix very well.

    In the last 5 years the wannabee VIP market has had the most growth.

    The rich discreet people who like Ibiza as they thought it was bohemiam and cool would not be seen dead in a VIP beach bar.

    These people were on the island in the sixties and seventies long before VIP beach bars were invented.

    The people that are not rich but also like to think they are cool and discrete for example the hippies, the yogis also do not like the tacky VIP culture.

    The real hippies and beatniks have now virtually become extinct on Ibiza as they cant afford to live on Ibiza anymore.

    VIP culture has therefore threatened the whole island. You can’t have wannabee hippys without some real hippies. You can’t have want to be VIPs without some real VIPS.

    The raver market is also having a similar crisis. Real ravers dont want to stand in a roped off VIP section they want to get sweaty on the dancefloor. They dont want to be told what time they have to go to bed and how many decibels they can play on their speakers. They don’t appreciate it when their favourite ‘underground’ cutting edge techno discotech is taken over by mainstream EDM acts.

    Ibiza is in danger of falling apart if the people that made it special dont want to be there anymore as they dont consider it cool anymore.

    Ibiza is in danger of falling apart as everyone wants a slice of the action and there are two ibizas now, the real and quickly becoming extinct Ibiza and the fake tacky and packaged up for the consumer Ibiza.

    15 years ago if you told someone outside Ibiza that you liked going to Ibiza they would look at you quizically and wonder if you were a drug addict. The penny dropped for me 5 years ago when one of my Dads 70 year old golf buddies who owns a 50million pound yaught and normally holidays in Marbella asked for me for advice about the nicest places to stay in Ibiza. I actually thought oh dear if he is coming it must be getting awfully mainstreamam now and it wont be very long before the people that like to think they are cool started heading somewhere else.

    Ibiza brand was that it was cool. Its quickly in danger of losing that.

    Ibiza had a perfect mix when it had ravers, beatniks and real hippies, locals, rich but very descrete people and independant travellers living side by side.

    Magaluf style tourism, package holiday tourism, wannabee VIP tourism are all a threat to Ibizas brand. They make money for the business owners but they offer nothing special that you can’t get elsewhere.

    You can have a package holiday in Turkey. You can can go for a wannabee VIP holiday in Marbella. You can get screwed out of your head magaluf style in Magaluf. There are countless places that offer all those things. Ibiza should not try and compete with these places
    Ibiza needs to focus on what makes it special and what makes it different. Its in danger of losing that.

    Probably theres not a lot that can be done to change what is happening. Its the standard gentrification process. Look at Greenwich village in Manhatten that I vistited last week. In the sixties Bob Dylan would go there to write songs living with the locals as he did once in Ibiza. He was aspiring to be living a true beatnic lifestyle. Then the fake hippies would follow rich middle class kids that dropped out of princetown and harvard after experimenting with acid and deciding to shun consumerism. Next the rich descrete people would also move in as they heard it was cool and they had everything in life apart from being cool and this was the one thing that they could never have which they had always cherished. All through theses stages the prices of the accomodation would rise. Local people would have to move out as they could not afford it. The final stage is when the speculators and the mainstream normal rich people want a slice of the experience. Its now 30mil for a house in Greenwich village when it was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in New York. I’m not sure if you can stop this gentriification process. I’m not sure if its beneficial to do so. Ibiza becoming more expensive and more exclusive is not something that we are going to be able to stop. What we need to ask is whats the brand regardless of price? How do we conserve this brand? With the tacky wanabee VIP market Ibiza is in danger of becoming the next Marbella rather than the next Greenwich village or Nottinghill on the med. That would be truely awful.

    If it was down to me id:

    Reduce package tourism. Its not environmentally sustainable. Package tourism destroys the enviroment. Big ugly hotels blotting the landscape. Lowest cost denominator tourists giving no custom to the local community businesses.

    Reduce magaluf style tourism. Planes on the way to Ibiza getting diverted to France because of drunken holligans and TV documentaries charting the antics of the cheap shot bar tourists. Brand Ibiza deserves better than this.

    Reduce tacky VIP tourism. Less fancy beach bars and ropped off areas in the disco. In the true Ibiza everyone should mix with everyone. The local and the princes daughter and the sweaty raver all sharing the same dancefloor.

    Address the affordable housing so that local people don’t have to leave the island and real hippies beatnics and artists can also start repopulating the Ibiza. Even in manhatten they allocate a percentage of the housing stock so that local people get houses a quarter of the price of the actual market price if they prove they are below a certain income and live in the area. In Ireland where I’m from you can only get planning to build in the countryside if you can prove you live there or are a returning immigrant. How about a hippie village with subsidised wig wams.

    Let the ravers rave. Send the EDM acts back to las vegas, take the roofs back of the superclubs and allow them to party 24 / 7.

    Also increase other music other than raves, let ibiza me a haven for music as well as disco music.

    Increase family tourism and independant traveller tourism. People that want to come to Ibiza because its so beautiful and want to sample the unique delights of the countryside and the beaches. If we dont attract families where are the next generation of tourists who grow up loving the island going to come from?

    Reduce DINKY double income no kids just here for the weekend to visit the beach clubs tourism.

    Let the fake hippies carry on with their detox cliniccs, aya and kissing amazonian frogs types experiences. Its all innocent fun.

    Ibiza is trying to attract the people it should be shunning and shunning the people it should be trying to attract.

    The people that made Ibiza special the locals and the pioneers. The ones that loved it before was on the tourist trail are in danger of becoming extinct. Ibiza is in danger of becoming uncool.

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  3. Martin I always enjoy reading your balanced views and opinions. I am 50 now and have been coming to ibiza since I was 14 I had family in Cala Llonga and this year stayed in Playa Den Bossa so we could be closer to certain beach bars and salinas. Our hotel and flights cost us £3500 and we spent £2000 which is for the future not possible anymore for us to revisit . I visited our friends in Cala Llonga last week and sadly the restaurants are dead or totally closed due to the all inclusive hotels. Such a shame and this effects all of the local residents. Friends that are currently renting have been told there will be an €800 increase in their rent a month. They have lived in ibiza since 1992. I pray something can be done to regulate this otherwise I fear ibiza will never have the same appeal again. This is an island I love and hold dear to my heart.

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  4. Fantastic article Martin. I too have been visiting Ibiza for many years and was lucky enough to secure a 6 months contact to work in Cala Llonga back in 2006. However, sadly we haven’t visited for a few years now, feeling the same as you about the future of my best place on earth. So so sad. Both hubby and I have serious withdrawal symptoms and have considered coming back in September this year. However, the only way to afford to, is on an all inclusive deal, which does not sit well, as we have friends who rely on people spending money in their establishments. Sounds like if we do visit, we will find a completely different white Isle.

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  5. Agree mostly, especially the VIP stuff. My father lived on Fornentera for fifteen years, moving to the mainland only when mains electricity was installed and ruined his desert island idyll, in his view.
    When we used leave Pacha at 7am there was sunshine and a few cabs, now there are 50 plus working girls of differing nationalities.
    I had to walk through d’en Bossa in mid afternoon a week ago, and that feels like Blackpool and not the family resort it once was.

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