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.