New Xmas Market Lights Up San Antonio

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in San Antonio as the new Xmas Market has received widespread acclaim.

The new initiative includes a stage for live entertainment, a Xmas market serving drinks and food, a beautiful Santa’s Grotto where you can meet the big man personally, a stunning Xmas tree and giant Xmas decorations all designed to engage the local population and bring people to the town.

Mayor Marcos Serra assisted by councillor Miguel Tur and pupils from local schools got the party started on Thursday when the Xmas lights were officially switched on and the Mayor explained to the large crowd that the idea was to encourage residents to stay local and not go elsewhere over the festive period.

The atmosphere on Thursday evening was electric as all ages gathered to watch the opening ceremony and on Friday morning the plaudits started with local hotelier and businessman Juanjo Planells saying that “these are the initiatives that unite a town” declaring that “today more than ever I feel proud of San Antonio”.

Meanwhile Paquito Fernandez, previously a prominent member of the local PI party stated via social media “We must recognise that the new government team are giving us a great Christmas rarely seen that we all appreciate. The excuse that the town is dead at Christmas is no longer worth it”

The party carried on yesterday with live music in the sunshine as a steady flow of people filled the square throughout the day and into the night.

After years of austerity where balancing the books was put before engaging the public San Antonio is now the talk of the Island and large crowds are expected over the Xmas holiday. Viva San Antonio!!!

The Xmas market is open everyday until 6 Jan (except for Monday and Tuesday) – full rundown here San Antonio Xmas Programme

Mayor Serra switches on the lights


New decade, new rules, new hopes, new dreams! In these changing times Ibiza is constantly evolving and right at the forefront is San Antonio. Here’s 9 reasons why San An is going to be massive in 2020.

1. New Hotels – WOW! San An was always under served when it came to good hotels but not any more as the town and bay now have more quality places to lay your head than ever before. From the fantastic Wiki-Woo with its eclectic trippy design to Cubanito via Axel Beach and the Beach Star, the rock n roll heritage of Pikes, Ocean Beach to Mambo’s Sa Clau, Hostal La Torre and Las Mimosas and all the way back to Casa Cook via Blau Park, Sol Bahia and the reformed Hotel Abrat. Take your pick!

2. Entrepreneurs – Ibiza is forever changing and San An is blessed with charismatic forward thinkers always looking for new ways to trade, bringing new ideas to the town. This is why Ibiza is the envy of European tourism with San An right at the heart of it. No wonder the guys from Es Vive have bought a new hotel right in the heart of San Antonio, they see the potential where others don’t.

3. O Beach Lagoon – Those crafty O(cean) Beach Boys have taken over the Surf House next door and have added it to their already impressive list of businesses. They are promising to make it very different while continuing to be family friendly so we can expect to be wow-ed with amazing food and drink and their trademark tip-top service, all whilst overlooking the sea.

4. Sunset Strip – The jewel in the crown that drags 1000’s to San Antonio and the West Coast every evening . The best sunset in the world? Probably but with all those well oiled sunset bars offering great service plus the genuinely famous names that Mambo have playing most nights adds up to one of THE Ibiza experiences. Sunset on the sunset strip continues to be like no other.

5. New Mayor – Marcos Serra has gone from IT office worker to San An Mayor in 5 short years but he has already shown his intent by getting tough with the towns bars that aren’t playing by the rules while also trying to extend the opening hours a little. His energy levels are impressive and he has a real will to change the town, a much needed breath of fresh air who’s door is always open.

6. Ibiza Rocks Hotel – Rocks Hotel has gone from edgy evening venue to day time pool party heaven showcasing new acts and old school showstoppers on a daily basis. The swing to daytime has seen them redefine their product with a newly designed outdoor space and arguably the best bar on the whole island, the immersive hotel experience they give is like no other. Pure hedonism.

7. VIP Heaven: There’s a popular misconception with ‘VIP’ that it’s full of snobby millionaires looking down on the poor people. That may be the case at other venues but not in San Antonio where the VIP experience is all about large groups of friends having their own space to enjoy a special experience. When it comes to VIP, San Antonio does it better than most.

8. West End: Now before you start spitting out your morning coffee hear me out. The Mayor has already shown his passion for this part of town and is determined to make it better. The West End offers a fun, inexpensive night out that’s a million miles away from ultra-expensive super clubs. Stay away from the stupid drinks offers and have a walk around and experience all that it has to offer including the boutiques 2 streets back and the vast array of restaurants near the fountains. It’s an eye-opener in more ways than one.

9. Fine Food: The recent announcement that Ibiza’s first ever Michelin star has been awarded to Es Tragon restaurant in San Antonio sent shockwaves through the Ibiza culinary world. This restaurant is about to go stratospheric but when it comes to all types of food San An and the bay are very well served on all fronts, if you are a foodie then you won’t be disappointed (food blog on it’s way soon).

Note: This is my BLOG NO. 300 – thanks to everyone for taking the time to read and send feedback (good and bad).

Hï Ibiza Win Confines Space to Memory

In 2016 when it was announced that Space Ibiza was closing for good there was an outpouring of grief similar to the death of a revered head of state. To many Space wasn’t just a club, it was a beacon, a way of life, a shining light of how it used to be when life wasn’t so serious although in truth it had become a slick commercial operation still marketed as a no-holds barred escapist paradise.

When Space finally closed its doors for the very last time at midday on Monday 3rd October 2016 not only did the mourning start but also the rumour mill of what would happen next to this famous site owned by the Matutes family who also owned Ushuaïa Beach Hotel.

While the chatter circulated and many old school ravers declared that Ibiza would never be the same again, Yann Pissenem the creator of Ushuaïa got to work creating another marquee brand, a new kind of club for a new kind of Ibiza.

Construction work on the site started straight away and the first hint was when the exterior became a large patio, giving it a grand Vegas-style entrance. The rumour mill went into overdrive especially about the new name, (what could possibly replace Space?) so when a very slick video dropped on 01 Feb 2017 announcing the name ‘Hï Ibiza’ the world had its first glimpse of Yann’s vision and what would become the future of Ibiza clubbing.

What no one realised back then was that this wasn’t a continuation of the Space ethos, this was a whole new concept in clubbing. Pissenem had done the air miles and his homework and knew exactly what he wanted to deliver. A new experience in clubbing run by a professional team creating a brand new experience. He wasn’t going to equal Space, he was going to better it for the next generation of clubbers, many who would be experiencing Ibiza for the first time.

Space was a time and place in Ibiza history, it was the heart and soul of hedonistic clubbing on the island long before it got hijacked by certain DJ’s. Although the outpouring of grief for its demise was genuine there was also a real need to up the ante in the new era for an Ibiza that was being compared to Las Vegas, Dubai and other emerging clubbing destinations on a daily basis.

When Hï Ibiza finally opened its doors on 28 May 2017 there was a mixed reaction, of course there was. It wasn’t Space any more, in fact it was a million miles away from Space and for some that was never going to be acceptable but Hï hit the ground running with its own identity and it was slick, very slick. No rough edges, more VIP, no more terrace but introducing new funky elements which the worlds clubbing fraternity would soon be talking about and adopting.

Hï was doing it their way and even though some were (and still are) dismissive of the shiny decor and new vibe you couldn’t argue with the talent on show. The music policy was on point introducing new acts and combining them with the iconic showstoppers that Ibiza had become famous for.

It’s hard to believe that Hï Ibiza has only been open for 3 summer seasons (in real terms little more than 12 months) yet it has taken the clubbing world by the scruff of the neck and propelled Ibiza to a new level. Even the most ardent Space-lovers have begrudgingly acknowledged that Hï has carried on where Space left off. Meanwhile other Ibiza clubs have followed suit and raised their game meaning that it’s been a win/win for the Island while other destinations throw money at their product in a vain attempt to compete with the White Isle.

Last week Hï Ibiza won Best Club in the World for the 2nd year in succession to keep Ibiza firmly at the top of the clubbing tree. Operations Manager Charlie Tatman accepted the prize on behalf of all the people that made it possible. In the list of TOP 100 CLUBS Ibiza has 4 entries in the top 8 and 9 in total, more than any other destination and although the list is highly objective, it can only be a good thing for Ibiza on the world stage.

It’s been an incredible journey in a very short space of time (pun intended) and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but the biggest compliment you can give to Hï Ibiza is that it doesn’t get compared to Space anymore. It just happens to be located at the same place but it has it’s own identity and the clubbing world loves it.

Ibiza clubbing constantly evolves, it never stops and you either change or die. Space was amazing for many years and will never be forgotten but l, nostalgia aside, the King is dead, long live the King.

Blog Post no. 299

From Ibiza to Tokyo (and back again)

It was always my intention to visit Japan one day so when the England Rugby team qualified for the World Cup final in Tokyo and I found reasonably priced last minute flights the excitement got the better of me. I love the nervous excitement of discovering a new country and a new city, the people, the smells, the sounds. It’s a sensory overload and the land of the rising sun didn’t disappoint.

Flying to any long haul destination from Ibiza is always a hassle but I didn’t realise just how far away Japan is, a mere 10700 kms. So after a 27 hour journey I found myself in Tokyo.

The first thing you notice is how calm everyone and everything is. Trains have constant reminders to not talk loudly, to keep your phone on silent. No public displays of emotion, everything is kept under check, eye contact kept to a minimum. A calmness that I hadn’t seen anywhere before and a million miles away from the always overly dramatic Ibiza.

Japanese are friendly and polite in the extreme, it’s an important part of their culture, pleasantries are exchanged at all times. Everything is orderly and organised for convenience with the minimum amount of fuss. This is a very focussed country, built on rules and regulations.

Uniforms are everywhere, from parking attendants to bus drivers to road sweepers to the guy who holds up the sign that says ‘end of queue here’. If builders are working in the street then there’s several uniformed personnel hovering around with illuminated batons making sure that nobody is under any doubt about it.

The public transport system in and around Tokyo is superb if slightly baffling although every major city is confusing at first. If there is a problem there’s always a uniformed officer on hand to help, with friendly politeness of course.

One thing you can’t help notice is that fashion is taken very seriously in Japan, it that thrives on it, embraces it, loves it. It’s edgy in a way I’ve never seen before in Asia. They may not display their emotions publicly but in their fashion a freedom of expression is shown, it’s also androgynous at times with some blurred lines.

Food is everywhere. All convenience stores sell hot, delicious offerings and there’s more restaurant choice than you could ever need and it doesn’t have to be expensive either, a delicious bowl of noodles costing around 800 Yen, less than 7 euros.

What is abundantly clear is that Japan takes its collective personal hygiene very seriously. Faces masks are always in sight especially on public transport, this is a country that has a germ phobia. Public toilets are easy to find at all times with soap and tissues always on display. Inside the toilets cubicle the wonderful lavatories offer you a wide range of ‘services’ including shooting a jet of water to clean your behind.

Technology is an obsession. Robots clean floors, machines take your restaurant order. Mundane human chores have been alleviated in so many ways.

One thing I couldn’t get used to and was like a step back in time is that Japan still allowed smoking in bars and restaurants. As a vehement anti smoker it was like a horrible memory being revisited when the person on the next table lights up while you were still finishing off your meal. Very strange for a country so serious about its hygiene.

The Rugby World Cup in Japan was an amazing success and it was a pleasure to see it first hand (even though my team didn’t win). Japan has been on my to do list for many years and it was great to finally see it. It’s no wonder that everyone I spoke to raves about the county. It’s one of the safest in the world, the people are friendly and polite, the food is delicious, transport is easy and accesible and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Recommended!

‘Mini Tornado’ Hits San Antonio

22 October 2019 – Mother Nature showed her teeth today in devastating fashion as a ‘mini tornado’ caused extensive damage to the Cala Gracio/Can Coix/Calo des Moro areas of San Antonio.

The storm hit at about 11.30am leaving a trail of devastation in it’s wake. The roof of the Can Coix sports complex was blown almost completely off with many trees uprooted as the storm headed towards Calo d’es Moro where many hotel terraces were decimated, the Hotel Tanit being hit hard.

Social media was soon awash with photos of streets strewn with debris, skips overturned, broken balconies, roofing in tatters and tales of many lucky escapes as news began to break. Other areas on the island experienced the bad storm but managed to avoid the carnage of the mini tornado.

The local council and civil protection agency mobilised quickly sending reinforcements to the zones and controlling the exit of schoolchildren from local schools close to the affected areas.

Ibiza is known for extreme weather but this was a spectacular reminder that we are all at the mercy of nature. Thankfully there has been no reported injuries so far.

The Downfall of Tour Operators – The Best Thing for a Modern Ibiza

In the early 1990s when I first arrived in Ibiza, just like the previous 2 decades, the Island was totally controlled by tour operators. There was no such thing as an independent traveller. Hotels negotiated a pitiful guaranteed price with a tour operator then waited for the airport transfer buses to arrive every Saturday and Wednesday.

They weren’t hoteliers they were glorified receptionists but in the early 2000’s everything changed when the low cost carriers started to fly into the island and tourists suddenly had a choice of where to fly from and how long to come for. Short durations and long weekends became a possibility for those who couldn’t get time off work.

The traditional tour operators weren’t prepared for this sudden shift and many went out of business in quick succession. Hotels started losing their guaranteed income, some panicked and some decided to invest and make their product better. Those hoteliers who couldn’t think outside the box saw their product progressively get worse while those who grasped the nettle soon realised that new avenues were opening up without the need to go through a middle man.

As hotels raised their prices and loaded their beds on internet sites, Ibiza became accessible to all and what was once a closed shop suddenly became open all hours. The Island that was once the sole domain of the British and German package holidaymaker became a truly international destination.  Tour operators, the driving force behind bringing the Spanish Costas to the mass market, had served their purpose in Ibiza but weren’t relevant any more.

As hotels started to see the fruits of their investments the White Isle grew in strength, many wised up quickly after years of doing very little – why invest after all when tour operators paid you very little in a price-driven market and still filled your hotel week in and week out regardless?

Tour operators, faced with this changing shift had to find a relevance and did so by buying their own hotel complexes and shifting capacity to other emerging destinations while investing heavily in family all inclusive units, some focussed on long haul where long weekends and no-frill flights weren’t an option. Some gained traction and carved out new markets while the ones who didn’t diversify withered.

While Ibiza prospered the tour operators and their brightly clothed representatives became less & less visible until there remained only 2 of the traditional main players: TUI (formerly Thomson’s) & Thomas Cook then another player emerged. Jet2 Holidays picked up the baton and redefined the package holiday market by offering multiple airports, flight times and hotels all at the click of a button in your living room. This was a new type of tour operator who didn’t horde tourists around like cattle but gave them a real choice. This was the beginning of the end for Thomas Cook (you don’t see any Jet2 agents on the high street).

Ibiza’s smaller family run hotels, through Booking dotcom and Expedia, were now finding their own markets and charging 10 times what they received from tour operators, the profit now going into the hoteliers pocket and being reinvested back into the island.

The hotels sector went from strength to strength as well as the villa market as flights were more available and affordable than ever. Hotels soon learnt that weekends were of higher demand so adjusted the prices accordingly, earning as much for a long weekend as for a 7 night stay.

As Ibiza became a marquee brand investment companies from all over the world came looking for hotels, snapping up basic properties and turning them into luxury retreats. The circle was complete.

Ibiza isn’t any other destination, it’s a very special place because of what it has to offer. In the space of 15 years it went from offering bucket and spade mainstream holidays to a truly world class destination with first class hotels and a unique mix of beautiful nature and unrivalled nightlife.

It’s journey started with tour operators and as sad as the demise of Thomas Cook and others are, the relationship was always a double edged sword and it was only after it threw off those shackles that Ibiza started to realise its full potential.

Thomas Cook Demise No Surprise

Too big to fail! That’s what they’ve said about many companies over the years but the sad collapse of the travel company Thomas Cook proves that if you don’t change with the times then you are never too big to get caught in the crossfire.

Woolworths, HMV, Blockbuster, Nokia, Motorola, Pan-Am and many more have all proven that business can change almost daily especially in the 21st century and unless you have a dynamic approach and a controllable cost base then you are always at risk.

This won’t be of any comfort to the thousands of hardworking Thomas Cook staff with mortgages to pay that find themselves without a job this week and who were the backbone of a business that had been swimming against the tide in recent months.  Let’s not also forget the thousands of holidaymakers who have had their plans seriously disrupted but hopefully the majority will be covered by the much maligned ATOL scheme which is designed for moments like this. The wave of nostalgia has been immense but there’s no room for nostalgia in a dog eat dog industry where every man and his dog is now an ‘online travel agent’.

Thomas Cook’s (TC) woes have been well documented but as the dust settles over the coming days the finger pointing will start and answers will be demanded. Many other businesses will also be out of pocket and some may even face potential bankruptcy as a consequence

TC’s unwillingness to fundamentally change their business model will ultimately be seen as the reason for their failure. As others were redefining the travel industry Cooks were too bogged down with a high cost base and a structure and culture that wasn’t open to change.  As one leading industry figure told me “buying Airtours and the Co-op travel agencies were 2 deals that defined the demise of this well known institution. Buying bricks and mortar when all forward thinking travel companies were investing in cutting edge technology was always a baffling decision”.

The merger with MyTravel (previously known as Airtours) was particularly harmful to TC and obligated them to a mountain of debt and lumbered them with crippling interest payments. Why they decided to merge with MyTravel rather than let them fail then pick through the bones may well lie in old school tour operator values where market share and bragging rights in the boardroom was favoured over bottom line principles.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you live and die by your decisions and TC had an extended period of making the wrong ones.

Recent senior management for all their well meaning bluster (and inflated pay packets) couldn’t cut the mustard or radically change the company for the better even with their own fully functioning airline. The rise of online travel agents, no frills airlines and accommodation only websites offering great deals for direct customers married with Cooks unwillingness to streamline led the company to the precipice and when the banks asked for an extra 200 million pounds to cover potential winter losses the writing was on the wall. After the UK government refused to cover the shortfall it was game over.

For those, like myself, who have worked in the travel industry this isn’t the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last but this could be a watershed moment for short haul tour operators who don’t have a nimble structure. As a major hotelier commented to me “in a time when people can build their own holiday experiences via multiple travel websites and apps, Thomas Cook didn’t adapt and found themselves down the pecking order when people booked their holidays.”

Like all those aforementioned businesses it was the paying public who ultimately sealed TC’s fate by not buying enough of what they had to sell during changing times and tastes. Cook’s inability to be flexible costing them dearly not to mention over 500 high street stores with agents sitting around waiting for potential customers to walk through the door.

It’s a sad time but also a sobering reminder that business doesn’t stand still and although doors will open for other entrepreneurs to fill the gap other operators and carriers will be raising their prices with glee in the short term.

Thoughts are with everyone affected at this difficult time but the UK travel industry is a resilient and dynamic beast and if history has taught us anything it’s that it will bounce back stronger but this time in a leaner, more efficient way.