PCR tests a step in the right direction but…

From 23 November all international travellers arriving at Spanish airports and ports from high risk countries must have a negative PCR test certificate to gain entry into the country. This certificate is a prerequisite and is included in the online form that generates a QR code that’s scanned on arrival.

Ibiza doesn’t have any international flights until January so isn’t directly affected by the new regulations but Mallorca has daily flights from countries such as Germany and Switzerland who’s passengers will now have to abide by the new rules

Other countries such as Greece have had the PCR test requirement in place since the summer but Spain in their better wisdom have only brought in the regulation now as the winter is upon us. We can argue about the timing but let’s just say ‘better late than never’.

Although the negative PCR test isn’t an ideal safety net (you could catch the virus on the way to the airport for example) it concentrates the mind and stops people traveling who suspect they have the virus but for reasons only known to themselves are unwilling to give up their holiday.

But there is one big flaw in this new cunning plan. Many countries have a lower infection rate than Spain and national arrivals, such as Madrid and Barcelona, are still allowed to come and go to the Balearic gateways without the need to show any proof of health. Recent history has shown that it is Spanish families and groups of friends who are spreading the infections more than others.

As an Island community the Balearics is in a unique position where it’s able to control it’s borders (Ibiza only has 1 airport and 2 ports) so when will the Balearic government grow a spine, start using common sense and insist that ALL arrivals, no matter if they are national or international, must show a negative test before entry is granted?

A small controversial caveat should be that Balearic Island residents are exempt from the test so that day trips and connectivity to the mainland are an option but national tourists gaining entry from Spanish airports shouldn’t be exempt especially as the numbers in their regions are so high.

Also the Balearics should follow the lead of the Canaries and not just accept the overly expensive PCR test but also the rapid 30 min tests (RDT’s) that are much cheaper and up to 80% precise. No system is infallible but the right noises must be made to deter potential spreaders from entering the islands.

This might mean that in the short term we don’t have the mass tourism that we have been used to over the last 20 years but quality over quantity is better than a 3rd wave due to a lack of courage in policing our own borders in a rigorous and effective way.

The Balearic Government hasn’t covered itself in glory during this pandemic but they now have the chance to be the authors of an economic recovery by taking the tough decisions and leading the way until a tried and tested vaccine is readily available to the masses.

Nightclubs v Beach Clubs – Ibiza’s Battle Supreme

The vaccines trials are almost over and there’s a growing confidence that summer 2021 will get us back to some form of normality but there’s an interesting local debate rumbling in Ibiza about how tourism should return after the pandemic.

Some are using this crisis to suggest that Ibiza should reset itself and emerge as a more conscientious destination, questioning the need for so many hedonistic options rather than focusing on natural, cultural and gastronomic pursuits.

Some are also putting pressure on the local authorities to regulate ‘beach clubs’ who they say operate on licences that don’t genuinely reflect what’s happening insides their venues.

Pepe Rosello, the owner of Space, has been a high profile critic of beach clubs as he sees them as unfair competition against the highly regulated nightlife sector.

In his latest open letter to the local press Sr Rosello highlighted that in 2005 the Ibiza government forced nightclubs to cover all open areas then in 2008 forced them to close from 6am to 4.30pm. This coincided with the growth of beach clubs who filled the gap for those wanting adult fun in the sun which his club particularly catered for when opening at 6am.

Rosello has also been a constant critic of Ushuaia (which isn’t surprising as this is the company that evicted him from the legendary club that he built over 3 decades) but he does come up with some valid points including that Ushuaia and other hotel venues were allowed to initially pay less VAT than some of their direct competitors (but this has now been amended).

Rosello isn’t the only one having a chip, local journalist Xescu Prats from the Diario de Ibiza has also weighed in with a veiled attack on Ushuaia and other beachfront venues who’s loud music disturbs the wider population.

What is clear is that these and others are using the pandemic to put pressure on the authorities to further regulate the leisure market to make it a more level playing field in a highly complicated and competitive area where venues operate under different forms of licence.

This story will rumble on over winter but it will be interesting to see whether the Ibiza authorities have the desire to challenge the existing order and regulate further especially as they know that devaluing your core product after the biggest crisis tourism has ever faced is a very dangerous game to play but they may also see it an ideal time to strike while the iron is hot. Watch this space.

A Ray of Hope for Summer 2021

The news has been tough reading for us here in the Balearic Islands over the last few weeks but finally we have had a couple of items of good news.

Firstly, business and government leaders in the Balearics made an announcement that went under the radar. Not only did they say that they are pushing for the Islands to get back to business at the end of March 2021 to prepare for an early easter but they also explained that they will recommend that tourists do a PCR test at origin but if they don’t then a quick test will be given at ports and at airports on arrival.

This is a very significant development as for the first time we are seeing a specific strategy put in place. There will be some logistical details to iron out but the right noises are being made about the need to get the Balearic tourist economy back up and running by working with the virus rather than waiting for a miracle cure which brings me nicely to the next piece of positive news.

A vaccine trial from Pfizer and German company BioNTech has produced very positive results with a 90% success rate. This is only 1 of 11 vaccines currently in the final stages of testing and its early days but is another glint of hope that some form of solution to the global pandemic is not a million miles away. Governments and scientists are urging caution so we shouldn’t celebrate too soon but it’s clearly a step in the right direction.

Many Ibiza residents are already in financial difficulties after the stop-start summer and it’s unimaginable what would happen if we had another one similar so these 2 pieces of news gives us hope that summer 2021 will happen on some level. As we tip toe back it might not be the mass tourism model that we have previously seen but we have to start somewhere and something is better than nothing.

There’s a long way to go but theres’s also 5 months until the start of the summer so plenty of time for these 2 things to solidify and form into definite propositions to regain customer confidence and to get the Balearic economy back into action. It will be a long road to recovery but any significant morsel of positivity is always more than welcome.