Influencer Awards Fiasco

Some world destinations are ideal for social media with stunning backdrops, lively venues and a smorgasbord of content. It’s fair to say that Ibiza ticks all these boxes so this must have been one of the reasons why the first ‘International Influencer Awards’ was held on the island at the beginning of June.

The concept was straightforward. Invite 40 of the most ‘influential’ social media movers and shakers from all over the world to a weekend of all expenses fun on the White Isle so they could showcase Ibiza and Formentera to their combined total of 160 million followers. The Island Council seemed to think it was a good idea and bought into it to the tune of a 100,000 EUR subsidy of taxpayers money as long as the organisers could independently justify fours times that being spent on local brands.

What followed was a PR disaster that has caused many red faces and started a debate amongst local press and intellects as to the direction that the island is heading in and whether social media accurately reflects what Ibiza is all about (when did social media accurately reflect anything?).

What was supposed to be a positive experience turned sour by the general passive and narcissistic behaviour of the participants culminating in a now infamous post by Spanish influencer Maria Pombo drunkenly looking for a McDonalds at 4am in the morning after previously eating at a top end restaurant, all paid for of course.

The already cynical Ibiza press jumped in denouncing the perception of this group of free loading airheads being ferried around in black mercedes minivans, too busy looking for affirmation on their phones to engage with the island and the brands they were supposed to be supporting on their all expenses paid jolly up.

After 2 years of limited nightlife those commentators who had urged the Island to furrow a more locally focussed path were horrified that the island was well and truly back to pre-pandemic levels of shallowness. Juan Carlos Rodriguez Tur writing an opinion piece for the Periodico de Ibiza called the Awards “embarrassing, shameful, outrageous and ridiculous”. His distaste didn’t end there. “They have spent a weekend partying, going on a yacht, visiting beach clubs and discos at the expense of the Ibizan taxpayer without the slightest positive impact for the island. In fact, they have done just the opposite: influence the image of Ibiza as an exclusive destination in which only superficiality and excesses have a place”. Bullseye!

Xescu Prats waded in with his piece in the Diario de Ibiza, writing “choosing a troop of adolescent-minded youtubers to share with their millions of followers rice dishes with steak and drunken searches for McDonalds does not add (to the island), it subtracts”. Señor Prats called for a deeper reflection. “It’s amazing that luxury hotels, beach clubs, nightclubs and restaurants with bizarre cuisine are being given so much visibility while heritage, culture, local family hotels and traditional gastronomy are progressively losing prominence. What is truly important to the island is being turned into an accessory only benefitting the interests of certain business groups to the detriment of the general interest”. Ouch!

To pour more petrol on the fire a charity account set up for donations on the back of the awards yielded an embarrassing amount of money so the negative perception solidified into reality. To their credit the Awards organisers realised this was a spectacular own goal and moved quickly to renounce all subsidies from the Ibiza Island Council while issuing a grovelling apology but the damage had already been done.

It should have been a good fit but with poorly chosen guests, no specific promotion agreement in place with content creators who all have different audiences, priorities and objectives it proved impossible to control and the fallout was spectacularly played out in public. Social media works both ways.

It’s been a chastising experience and in reality does a brand as strong as Ibiza really need a group of posturing professionals exhibiting only the luxury side of a diverse story? These influencers, with their predominantly youthful following, are precisely the opposite of the traditional free spirited values associated with the long and rich history of the White Isle.

Social media is here to stay and is an important part of showcasing to the world all the different aspects of Ibiza but in the future I doubt whether the island authorities will want to talk about this disastrous episode never mind get involved. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and you can guarantee there’s a self styled influencer taking plenty of selfies along the way.

Record Number of Tourists for the Balearics

April 2022 saw record numbers of tourists arriving in the Balearic Islands. A total of 1,302,886 arrived surpassing 2019’s figures by 0.26% although it was national tourism that made the big difference accounting for almost 20% of all tourists.

Breaking it down to the individual islands it was Menorca that showed the biggest rise with 36% more visitors than 2019 while Ibiza/Formentera remained stable with a rise of 3.5% with Mallorca arrivals decreasing by a relatively small 2%.

Not only are there more tourists but they are spending more than ever before. Total spending in the Balearics rose by 19% in Mallorca, 34% in Ibiza/Formentera and a massive 65% in Menorca. Expenditure per tourist in April 2022 was 1023.52 euros compared 838.48 euros in April 2019.

The data for May and June is not yet available but everything seems to indicate that they will follow the same trend as April meaning that Ibiza and the Balearics are heading for a record breaking summer.

Original article in Periodico de Ibiza

Ibiza and British Tourism: A Short History

As the UK sees an outpouring of patriotism for the platinum jubilee now is as good a time as any for a short history of Ibiza’s relationship with British tourism.

After the bitter Spanish civil war and extreme poverty Ibiza finally woke up to find that its white sandy beaches, 300 days of sunshine per year, liberal attitude and cheap living costs was a magic formula for an economic miracle and the British (along with other sun-starved north European tourists) were at the centre.

Like most relationships it had a strong start, the courting and heavy petting came in the 60’s and 70’s when mass tourism found its way to the island. While the Germans invaded Mallorca (pardon the expression) British tour operators such as Thomson Holidays started bringing over plane loads of eager holidaymakers to newly built hotels while their reps happily sold sangria filled, cheesy excursions to travellers waving fistfuls of travellers cheques.

The package holiday revolution had begun. Most Brits went home happy clutching a stuffed donkey, a bullfighting poster and sunburn, it’s cliched but thanks to my late parents I’m talking from personal experience. That was the 70’s for you.

For 2 countries only a thousand miles apart geographically the culture differences were huge but the pay off for both sides was immense. British tourists lapping up the the sun, sea and sangria while local businesses prospered with plenty of pesetas. British entrepreneurs started to settle on the island, young ladies met future husbands.

The British package holiday or ‘square deal’ to Ibiza was a simple formula that continued to evolve but like most relationships there were some bumpy times ahead. In the late 80’s Ibiza became the victim of its own success. All night opening hours and cheap drinks led to excessive behaviour which the UK tabloid press jumped all over framing a narrative of drink and drug excess. In truth it wasn’t a million miles away from reality due to Ibiza’s liberal attitude that was in stark contrast to the starched shirt, stiff upper lip way of life of Thatchers Britain trying desperately to clamp down on the blossoming rave culture.

Suddenly the ‘drunken Brit abroad’ went from hero to zero. Local Ibiza businesses were earning too much to care but it still wasn’t prepared for the shitstorm that followed and the repercussions to its reputation that still rumble on to this day.

In the mid 90’s the Island exploded. Edgy clubs became accesible not to just the cool kids but to a core British audience – Manumission at Privilege became the biggest club night in the world with it’s infamous sex show broadcast weekly on ‘Ibiza Uncovered’ – the ground breaking Sky TV series. It brought Ibiza directly to British living rooms destroying plenty of myths along the way but creating a boom in demand especially from a young British audience desperate to be part of the story. Ibiza had landed on the world stage but mainstream had its price and it’s reputation suffered a little but it would bounce back.

As a new Millenium was ushered in, Ibiza and the world had no idea that firstly the internet and then social media was about the change the game. Within a decade the tourism business model that had existed for nearly 40 years was to become extinct as the traditional 7, 10 and 14 night ‘package’ holiday became a thing of the past. It was now all about short breaks and weekend fun in the sun.

British short haul tour operators began to disappear, no more plastic trays with processed food and holidays reps with clipboards, low cost airlines Ryanair and easyJet became the new ‘no frills’ public transport to the sun with daily flights from nearly every UK airport. Hotels were now bookable online, who needed a tour operator any more? The opening up of the skies saw record numbers of Brits flowing into Ibiza airport, the upward trajectory of an island finally unshackled was limitless or so we thought until a Chinese bat threw a very large spanner into the works.

Suddenly the British market was taken away from Ibiza by a clueless British government that went from green to amber to red in little over 2 weeks whilst instilling a fear of travelling. Ibiza without Brits was like fish without chips, bread without butter, spotted dick without custard (you get the idea). Some welcomed the change of dynamic but some businesses didn’t even open – the simple economics has been undisputed for decades – nobody spends money like Brits abroad. Self survival kicked in and many critics of British tourism were soon pining for their return. Nobody denies that the relationship between residents and tourists can be fractious but this 2 year period taught us to be careful for what you wish for. The British market doesn’t always cover itself in glory but no relationship is ever perfect.

Summer 2022 has started like a runaway train, fuelled by a pent up demand for fun in the sun that’s been lacking for 2 long years. It’s back to business as usual but with more positivity than ever before. Over the last few years the White Isle has seen unprecedented investment in its hotel infrastructure and food and beverage sector. There’s more options than ever which can only be good for the consumer. Ibiza is right at the top of its game. More connectivity than ever before, world class venues, hostelry and cuisine offering a product and service like never before and right in the very middle of all this are the British tourists who come here in their hundreds of thousands every summer.

The relationship between Ibiza and British tourism goes back over 4 generations and is ingrained in the identity of the Island. The journey hasn’t always been easy but the friendships and the shared history together can never be forgotten or devalued. There will be challenges ahead – there always is, but coming out of it’s darkest hour the future has never been so bright.