All Ibiza Eyes Now On 2023

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.

Why ‘Ibiza is too expensive’ is a myth

If there’s one thing I hear more than anything is that Ibiza is ‘too expensive’ for tourists.

You can’t hide away from the fact that prices are eye watering at some establishments for certain products but it’s still possible to come to the White Isle and not spend your entire life savings on a round of drinks at Amnesia.

Now if you want to stay at a top hotel and go to world class clubs, restaurants and events every day and night for 7 nights then this isn’t going to come cheap but this is the same as going to London, staying at the Ritz, going to see a West End show twice a day then eating at the Ivy.

There are plenty of options that won’t break the bank and things to do that don’t involve handing over wads of cash. So instead of taking for granted that Ibiza is like Monte Carlo on steroids, here’s my 10 point guide for an Ibiza experience that won’t cost the earth.

1. Stay in a family run hostal. There’s plenty of options here and prices are surprisingly reasonable if you steer clear of August. Rooms are clean, functional and won’t cost you a fortune. You only need a bed, air con and shower. Have a look at Small and Friendly

2. Eat local. Where do you think residents eat? Local bars serving delicious tapas and meals at incredible prices of course. Don’t follow the pack, look for vibrant, busy local bars serving daily menus. You can thank me later. Some great options at Menu del Día

3. Use public transport. Buses run regularly in the summer between the main towns meaning that it’s easy and cheap to get around. San Antonio to Ibiza for example is 2 euros, yes that’s right – 2 euros. More details at Ibiza Bus

4. Spend a day in Ibiza old town. This world heritage site is an amazing place to visit with nooks and crannies everywhere and spectacular views to Formentera and the port. It’s cultural and people -watching heaven, good fun and won’t cost you a penny. Croissant Show at the bottom of the rampart is a good place to cool off with a beer and sandwich. More info here

5. Picnic at the beach. Italians are experts at this and it’s so easy. Spend a tenner at a supermarket or bakery on a filled baguette with all the trimmings then go and bake yourself on a towel for the day on a gorgeous white sandy beach while smiling at the champagne swilling, Bali bed hugging wannabe next door spending a fortune. No fuss heaven.

6. Visit Formentera. See point 5 but get the bus to the port in Ibiza and make the 30 minute crossing to one of the most beautiful places you’re ever likely to go to. Take a walk or rent a bicycle, go to Illetas or es Palmador which are right up with the best beaches in the world and guess what, it won’t cost you a kings ransom plus the Instagram pics will get your friends back home frothing at the mouth. Formentera official website

7. Sunset on the sunset strip. This daily ritual is crackling with excitement and ambiance but (yet again) you don’t have to be sat at a frontline table with a ridiculous minimum spend, you can mingle in with the crowds or sit on the rocks soaking up the moment that will define your holiday. Add in a few tinnies bought from a supermarket and a local meal on the way home and the night you’ve been waiting for has come at amazingly little cost.

8. Treat yourself to a super club. Ibiza’s super clubs are world famous, some tickets are as cheap as 35 euros and with night buses running regularly you can get there and back relatively easily. Stay away from the bar and dance the night away at the home of Balearic bliss and take away memories that will last a lifetime and not cost a fortune

9. A walk is good for the soul. Ibiza is a beautiful island with some incredible walking routes. Take a couple of hours to have a stroll and take in the nature and views and hopefully the penny might drop that seeing the island through the bottom of a 3 litre flashing vodka bottle isn’t mandatory behaviour – more at Ibiza Outdoors

10. Relax, chill, sunbathe, beach, sleep, eat, dance, walk, drink, chat, sample, discover, repeat.

There’s so many options on the White Isle that sometimes it’s hard to see the woods for the trees but don’t follow the herd or be part of the crowd that takes the easy route. Scratch away at the surface and you will find that you don’t have to spend a fortune to reap the benefits of this amazing Island. ‘Ibiza is too expensive’ is just a myth peddled by people on social media who don’t know any better. As I said, you can thank me later.

Record Summer for Ibiza

Happy October. These 2 words will come as a relief to many after what has been an incredibly busy summer season for the White Isle. It’s difficult to believe that little over a year ago nightclubs weren’t able to open, it was illegal to dance and most bars had to close by 1am.

Ibiza Summer 2022 has been the polar opposite to the previous year, business owners will tell you it’s been a good year but make no mistake it’s been a record year. The number of arrivals might not be at pre-pandemic levels but takings have been off the scale as tourists scrambled to make up for 2 ‘lost’ summers while prices have been maximised across the board.

Hotel rates have never been so eye watering, restaurants packed out every night and the clubs are back with a bang with those VIP packages at prices to bring you out in a cold sweat. The desire to make up for lost time has been unprecedented, the bounce back more extreme than anyone could have foreseen after 2 difficult years that saw local businesses hang on by their fingernails while others closed for good. From the despair of 2020 came the triumph of 2022 but it hasn’t come without its consequences.

For 2 summers Ibiza was forced to focus on food, nature and culture and some political commentators are already saying that a big opportunity has been missed to curb the excesses of the island. The no clubs nirvana that some had been striving for was only a short term illusion. Local elections are looming in May 2023 and it will be interesting to see if town halls change their approach next year if voters levitate towards the parties who promise to get tough on excess. As we have seen in past, Ibiza politics is a complicated animal where a few hundred voters can have a massive effect on certain segments of the market.

This summer proved that as much as Ibiza is a beautifully historic island with incredible cuisine, its X-factor and USP is world class entertainment in amazing settings that is difficult to find anywhere else on the planet. The island made a good job of selling itself without the clubs (day & night) when it had to but this is what really defines it where mass tourism is concerned. The secret, as always, is finding the middle ground where culture and pure hedonism can coexist but if anyone can find this then they might also be able to solve world peace. Ibiza as ever is an island of extremes that polarises local opinion.

Already there is much expectation for summer 2023. Unprecedented investment will happen over the winter yet again but it’s tough to see how Ibiza can follow this years trajectory. Even the most optimistic can see that business will most likely plateau now that the covid cobwebs have been shaken off but prices will continue to go upwards. It’s a simple supply and demand issue.

Summer 2022 will be remembered as the big comeback year for Ibiza, bigger than we could ever have hoped for but we shouldn’t get too carried away. Recent history has shown that there’s a thin line between success/failure and boom/bust. The island has to keep its feet on the floor and consistently improve its tourist offering on every level but for now we can definitely celebrate a job well done. Roll on the winter.

RIP HM Queen Elizabeth II

The news of the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II evokes many emotions. It’s a day we knew would happen but never wanted to think about.

The tributes from all from over the world is a mark of the respect and esteem that she was held in by people from all walks of life, from Presidents to ‘paupers’. In the then Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday speech she solemnly swore to a life of service ‘whether it be long or short’ and she was true to her word with over 7 decades of selfless and unwavering service to the British nation and the Commonwealth.

Her Majesty has been a constant presence for so long, one of my first memories as a 7 year old boy was a street party with all my neighbours celebrating the Silver Jubilee of 25 years on the throne. As Queen her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill (born in 1874) and it’s this connection to the past that was such an incredible conduit from today to a bygone era, an era without the internet or even television and when radio was the most used medium of communication.

Her reign was not without challenges. From wars and social unrest, family issues that still exist today and a pushback against the British monarchy after the death of Princess Diana. The Queen faced all her challenges with a traditional British stiff upper lip, stoic compassion and words of comfort without taking sides. She encompassed everything that is thought to be British – her famous mantra was never explain, never complain.

The Queen had a legendary sense of humour but also an empathy with all people and her ability to ask the right question at the right time was a lightning bolt for those present who knew they had to be on their A-game even in the presence of a pensioner, she could never be underestimated. For us ex-pats who live outside the UK, the Queen has been a shining light of Britishness, something to hold on to, a figurehead we could all be proud of. It’s difficult to explain to other nationalities but she seamlessly brought a community together when it was needed most.

Whatever your views on the modern-day monarchy you can’t help but be touched by the worldwide outpouring of grief for the death of a dignified 96-year-old great grandmother who in a world of change represented continuity, in an age of division remained transcendent and in a time of constant self-promotion embodied self-effacement.

Electric Scooters

Rarely do I feel the need to be a grumpy old git but something has been bothering me for quite a while. Electric scooters. They are a wonderful form of personal transportation, perfect for Ibiza’s resort towns where getting from one end to the other can be a very long walk or an even longer car journey due to summer traffic.

They are relatively cheap, easy to drive, very effective and they also seem to be above the law. Every day as I drive from San Antonio to Cala de Bou there are electric scooters hurtling towards me, the wrong way down a one-way road. These scooters can go in excess of 30 km/h so it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that this is a tragic accident waiting to happen. These scenes are taking place all over the island every day.

In the scooter drivers’ defence they are taking the easiest and most direct route on badly designed roadways but it’s also the most dangerous. They are a law unto themselves but what exactly is the law? Laws are clear when it comes to cars and motorbikes but electric scooters exist in a grey area. I’m sure there are laws (helmet, hi-vis vest, insurance?) but I doubt whether the predominantly young drivers know them or indeed care especially when nobody is enforcing them.

Ibiza’s resorts, already busy with cars, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians now have another form of transport vying for road and pavement space and without clear enforceable guidelines things are going to get very ugly very quickly.

The sales of electric scooters will increase, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg so the Island government must take swift action and set out clear rules and start enforcing them, anything less would be a serious failure to protect lives. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

English translation of letter to Periodico de Ibiza, published on 18/8/22 – link here

Safe Spaces Rule the Roost in Ibiza

It’s been a busy week for live performances on the White Isle. Not only did I witness the Robbie Williams ‘techno rebrand’ but I also spent 2 days at the Ibiza Rocks Hotel watching 3 young British hip hop artists, namely Aitch, Arrdee and Central Cee.

You may think that this is a strange place for a middle aged man to be and you’d be correct but when you have teenage kids the lines can become blurred. It wasn’t my kind of music (I’m not their target audience anyway) but a couple of thousand youngsters would heartily disagree with me, especially my own offspring who loved every minute if it.

The Ibiza Rocks Hotel has grasped the nettle and remodelled itself into a sleek pool party venue where a predominantly young crowd can party to their hearts content in swimwear while sipping cold drinks in the sunshine. The headline acts of DJ’s and Live PA’s are well organised, there’s plentiful staff and security watching over proceedings and the best thing is (for me anyway) that it’s all done and dusted by 10pm.

The amphitheatre with pool, terrace and VIP balcony is locked off from the outside world and standing in the streets outside you wouldn’t know that inside is a controlled venue designed to give maximum fun with the fewest possible problems. Of course there’s drama – we’re talking young, hormonal people drinking alcohol in the hot sun – but it’s a secure environment so any minor incidents can be efficiently diffused and dealt with by the conscientious staff who act quickly should there be any particularly disruptive individuals. Woodstock ‘99 this ain’t!

This isn’t reinventing the wheel, nightclubs have operated a similar policy for decades but daytime partying in the sun is now firmly established and throws up its own challenges with an exuberant young crowd but the venue is safe so you feel you can really let yourself go, which is what a holiday is all about.

Daytime partying continues to go from strength to strength in Ibiza and one of the main reasons is that the customers are in a safe space away from the parasites and hawkers. O Beach is another good example of a venue that you feel able to relax in, girls especially love it there as it ticks all the boxes (food, drink, surroundings, Instagram) and they know that security is on hand should any issues arise.

Ushuaia, Destino, Nikki Beach and others follow the same model – controlled spaces designed for maximum fun and, of course, maximum profit. This isn’t charity, it’s a 2-way street and the beach clubs know that if they create the right vibe that is safe then the customers will relax, enjoy…..and most importantly spend. It’s a lucrative business if you can get it right, the recently announced closure of Bora Bora, Ibiza’s original beach club in Playa den Bossa will in all likelihood reopen as a high end beach club and who can blame them.

Outside of these venues only serves to underline why safe spaces are so desirable. Peak season parasites lurk around trying to sell cheap plastic crap, laughing gas and other needless items while pirate taxis hustle for an expensive fare to go a short distance.

Ibiza Rocks and the ever growing list of daytime venues have positioned themselves for certain segments of the market. Fun in the sun with live acts, entertainment and big bottles posted on instagram is here to stay and the secret is in the environment that each separate venue creates and regardless of whether it students on a budget or billionaires buying big bottles, safety and security is top of that list.

Review: Robbie Williams at 528 Ibiza

It was the worst kept secret on the Island as Robbie Williams broke his Ibiza virginity to wow the crowd by joining Lufthaus at 528 Ibiza, the venue on the outskirts of San Antonio that has undergone a major facelift.

Despite the usual Ibiza no-show rumours the self styled ‘entertainer’ from Stoke on Trent bounced on to the stage in what looked like an expensive pair of silk pyjamas. The atmosphere was electric as he set the tone early by saying it wasn’t a night for Ángels, his most iconic hit, it would prove to be an interesting night and a clear departure from his comfort zone.

Williams has just released a new single with Lufthaus and that was clearly what he was here for – to promote his new house music direction. Whether it is a midlife crisis or boredom from singing ballads to a middle aged crowd stuck in the 90s he embraced his new challenge with both hands.

This was an island party, mainly local residents and their friends on the guest list keen to see the Robster perform for the very first time on the White Isle in a beautiful, reinvented venue. If you were there for the hits then you were only treated to a few lines from ‘Feel’, Robbie you big tease!.

Williams didn’t travel to Ibiza to bash out his back catalogue and he looked like he was having a whale of a time behind the DJ box before sporadically coming to the front of the stage to engage the crowd with some dad dancing that most middle aged men will identify with. His stage presence was there for all to see as he threw himself (literally) into the hour long set with vocals, dancing and twiddling a few knobs on the DJ rig.

The purists might grimace and some unfair comparisons were made on the night with other artists attempting to reinvent themselves as a house DJ but regardless of snobby asides Williams has an undoubted musical pedigree that gives him gravitas to undertake this new challenge and be given some respect.

His old band mate Howard Donald has been on the DJ circuit for years, Craig David is still wowing crowds at Ibiza Rocks with his all action TS5 show and even celebrity chef Gok Wan was on the island a few weeks ago playing tunes for Clockwork Orange (but the less said about Paris Hilton the better).

The majority of the crowd last night loved the occasion and left happy – it was a win/win/win for a guest list heavy crowd, the 528 venue who announced themselves to the world and an established recording artist craving to do something different. Some might be disappointed that the lighters didn’t come out for an Angels encore but they can always book a ticket on his next greatest hits tour in a cold city rather than this intimate evening in the balmy Ibiza countryside, this was a million miles away from Knebworth.

My only small gripe was that a genuine house remix of one of his big hits would have truly brought the house down while protecting his integrity but alas it wasn’t to be. This was a truly original ‘I was there’ Ibiza night and these occasions don’t come round often these days. Bravo Señor Williams.

More Winter Flights but Taxi Woes Continue for the White Isle

Winter flight have always been a hot topic so the recently announced addition of more direct winter flights is a big positive for Ibiza. EasyJet has added direct connections to Milan Malpensa to their winter timetable while Vueling are adding to their existing Paris Orly to Ibiza route. This compliments the existing schedules of Transavia’s direct flights to Amsterdam and British Airways very popular route between Ibiza and London City.

It signifies a further shift by low cost carriers looking for new international winter routes and is great news for Ibiza residents who can now get away for a few days without the need for a stopover. Less than 10 years ago there were very few direct winter international flights so momentum is finally building in the right direction and moves the Island towards being a bonafide winter destination.

Ibiza is amazing in wintertime, in fact it’s probably one of Europe’s best kept secrets. It’s completely different from summer but with a fantastic climate, heaps of culture, plenty of culinary options and outdoor pursuits its a great winter option and now more people than ever before will have the chance to sample it.

Meanwhile the peak season situation with taxis isn’t improving with long snaking queues appearing in the press and social media along with stories of unanswered telephone calls and lots of frustration from tourists wanting mobility on the island. To be fair this mainly applies during the peak hours before and after dinner but the sight of baffled tourists standing on the roadside waiting for non-existent white taxis to pass by is now a daily staple.

There’s simply not enough taxis during peak hours and is a situation that shames an island reliant on tourism and the need to move those tourists around in the months when many local businesses make the majority of their annual income. After 2 years of relatively low numbers there was always going to be a big bounce-back and its clear that the authorities were unprepared to find a solution.

As is usual with these things there are lots of factors involved including licensing issues, self protection from taxi unions and complicated regulation including the local government’s insistence that taxi drivers must take a day off per week but none of this is relevant to a family of 4 who just want to get to their 9pm dinner reservation with the minimum amount of fuss in the summer heat.

Unfortunately there appears to be no short term solution for the lack or taxis during the peak summer weeks so for now its a matter of being as organised and as patient as possible or alternatively come back in the winter on a direct flight when there are more taxis than you will ever need.

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