The dust has now settled on a summer where Ibiza rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a global pandemic, a resurgence that could have only been dreamt about 12 months previously. The pent up demand for travel from an unshackled tourist sector saw records tumble, prices increase and Ibiza aiport reporting pre-pandemic levels of arrivals.
Like any truly world class destination Ibiza is constantly evolving to try and keep ahead of the rest. While other Spanish resorts have stood still with low property prices, a dwindling tourist base and hotels that have seen better days, Ibiza’s property prices have never been so high (a medium sized house with a pool and a small plot of land will now set you back at least a million euros), the quality of hotels are rising fast as are the prices and there are more gastronomic options than ever before – as I write the ‘Etxeko Ibiza’ restaurant at the Bless hotel in Es Cana has been awarded a coveted michelin star.
But trouble is lurking ahead because every 4 years comes a litmus paper test like no other, namely the local Balearic elections that will be held in May 2023. Every vote is important but the next one will be pivotal in sending out a message to the world of where Ibiza and the Balearics will be in 10 years time.
island politics is complicated, each of the Balearic Islands (except for Formentera) is split down the middle with regards to the thorny issue of tourism and how it should be approached. The divide is quite stark, there are political parties that believe that the islands have become oversaturated and that certain segments need to be culled for the general wellbeing of the balearic population whereas others insist that the islands need to maximise for the summer knowing that the winter is always economically challenging. No matter what side, sustainability is the buzz word being used.
The Balearic parliament which has a left wing coalition is particularly good at rolling out radical ideas. The Mes Party recently proposed that Mallorca should completely stop promoting tourism at international fairs “because tourtsts will come anyway” and that all the budget for this should be spent directly on the healthcare system. Meanwhile the Podemos Party gained approval for a study on the maximum human capacity that the Balearic Islands can support. Alejandro López, the spokesman for Podemos, said “we need to know because you can no longer live in the main tourist centres” adding that human pressure also affects the right to housing, “which has become a speculative asset instead of a right for all citizens, as it should be”.
The Mes party in Menorca has tabled a motion to limit Balearic property purchases by non-residents to make it easier for local residents to access the property market, Francina Armengol from the PSOE party, President of the Balearic Government, told parliament that a housing policy is “key” for her government and that she is “aware” of the difficulties that exist in accessing housing on the islands. Expect affordable housing to be a very hot topic come May although nobody seems to have come up with a realistic plan.
Meanwhile Ibiza has seen local residents denouncing the ‘excesses’ of 2022 stirred up by journalists who believe that the previous 2 years without clubs and bars ‘proved’ that the island can not only exist but is a better place without its unique hedonistic selling point. Certain political parties will look to utilise this split come May and use the nightlife sector as a pawn in manifesto pledges.
So 2022 is nearly done and all eyes now turn to 2023 and first up is those pivotal elections. They are currently too close to call with every vote a potential election winner and whoever succeeds will shape the island for years to come but with so many conflicting views on how to proceed in a sustainable manner the pathway won’t be easy or straightforward. How very Ibiza.
*if you are on the Municipal Register at your local town hall (Padrón municipal de habitantes) then make sure you are also registered to vote.
**I’m flying to Qatar next week to sample the unique 2022 FIFA World Cup and will be sharing my experience on what has so far been a controversial tournament.