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.