There are few places in the world as conflicted as San Antonio as was proved yet again last night in a meeting discussing how to improve it’s tourism model.
As part of its Stategic Plan the town’s council had invited tourism expert Ricard Santoma from the Ramon Llull university in Barcelona to give examples and background on how other destinations had changed their focus in a positive way.
After a brief introduction by Mayor Josep Tur “Cires”, Sr Santoma got to his feet and was an assured speaker explaining in a simplified manner how you had to give tourists positive experiences over time to change their perception of a destination. He clearly stated that it wouldn’t happen overnight and had to be a collective effort. So far so good.
The packed auditorium was polite in its response although many were scratching their heads with a volcanic food analogy from Sr Santomà but the message was clear, diversify your product, give positive experiences, treat your clients with respect then reap the rewards over time.
Then the real ‘fun’ began. A round table interview was conducted between Mayor Tur, Sr Santoma, Toni Ramon from the San Antonio hotel association and journalist Joan Lluis Ferrer. This was moderated by another journalist Xescu Prats who decided to do it in Catalan.
Now if I tell you that JL Ferrer has written books entitled ‘Trash Tourism’ and ‘Ibiza: The Destruction of Paradise’ you will understand where his mindset is. To put it mildly he is the main San An hater and enemy number 1 to many in the town frequently using the his Diario de Ibiza column to highlight the negatives, never bothering with the positives. Why let the truth get in the way of a San An hating story? He is the self styled expert on British youth tourism who’s probably never been to the UK.
The decision to put Sr Ferrer on the panel meant that the crowd were baying for blood. Mayor Tur gave an impassioned speech on why the tourism model must change highlighting the challenges the town faces but refrained from giving any actual solutions to the problems. It appeared this wasn’t an evening for solutions, only to tell the world what a terrible place San Antonio is.
Every pantomime needs a villain and JL Ferrer was perfect for this performance. His solution to the problems in San Antonio was to close more bars whilst referring to young British tourists as drunks and hooligans.
Toni Ramon did a good job of countering Ferrer’s arguments with his own impassioned speech highlighting how San Antonio is improving year on year especially with the investment coming into the hotel sector.
But the show was stolen by a man in his 70’s sitting directly in front of me who as soon as the floor was opened up to questions stood up and and went into an angry monologue aimed at JL Ferrer. “You have no f**king idea, sitting there telling me how bad my town is”.
“In the 50’s we were starving, then came tourism and now look at us” the crowd started to buzz. The angry man wasn’t finished “San Antonio is a great town and we have always overcome our problems”
Cue spontaneous applause. Some took exception to angry man’s manner but the majority of questions thereafter continued the theme of how precious tourism is to the town.
God only knows what Lloyd Milen, the British Consular General, thought sitting in the front row listening to San Antonio’s finest telling him how much they didn’t like the British tourism they have handed to them on a plate especially after his Brexit meeting in the morning was full of gushing praise for the British market in Ibiza. It was definitely a game of 2 halves.
Nobody seemed to have worked out that people behave as they are treated and that the same San Antonio people who go to Pacha and Ushuaïa behave entirely differently in the West End where they are pushed and prodded like cattle with a wallet.
But that’s San Antonio for you. A town that seems to have forgotten its roots. A town that doesn’t like the only commodity it has, the very same commodity that made it rich beyond their grandparents’ wildest dreams. A town that invites a wolf, in the shape of Jose Lluis Ferrer, into the sheep’s pen. Strange, very strange indeed.