More 4 & 5 star hotels for San Antonio

The ‘old’ Piscis Park and Tanit

More positive news for San Antonio as 2 new major hotel projects have been unveiled.

Firstly the Palladium Hotel Group, which counts Ushuaia Beach Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza amongst its portfolio, has announced that their new 5 star hotel located in Cala Gracio will be called the TRS Ibiza Hotel and will be open in time for next summer. The fully refurbished luxury hotel is where the Hotel Tanit used to be in “privileged area for exceptional sunsets”.

The hotel will have a total of 378 suites and will be the first hotel in Europe under the exclusive TRS brand with the group saying “the hotel will be a revolution in terms of luxury and will be the first hotel on the island to offer a premium all-inclusive service in an adults only environment” with “an exclusive butler service, unprecedented on the island.” It will also have 3 a la carte restaurants, 5 bars and an exclusive spa and wellness centre.

Meanwhile Vibra Hotels (formerly Playasol Group) has resumed their extensive refurbishment of the landmark Piscis Park hotel opposite the Egg roundabout in central San Antonio. Work has resumed with the demolition of the interior and necessary structural works. The group say it is an “ambitious” project due to its size and the increase from a 2 to 4 star hotel.

The hotel, with its striking presence when entering the urban centre, will retain its current 366 rooms but will add a state of the art gym, separate wellness and beauty areas and an “original gastronomic space inspired by street food”. The hotel chain say that the renovation is being carried out with “high standards of energy efficiency and a quality construction process” costing 13 million euros with an opening date of 27 May 2022.

Summer 2022 is looking very promising as the hotel sector in San Antonio and Ibiza continues to go from strength to strength with major investment.

‘Space Ibiza’ on the Sunset Strip

Pepe Roselló

Pepe Roselló, the well known owner of ‘Space Ibiza’ has unveiled plans to open a bar and restaurant on the sunset strip in San Antonio for summer 2022. The new venture will be next door to Cafe Savannah in the Posta de Sol building and will be called ‘Space Sun Beach’.

Roselló says that the restaurant’s menu will be based on fresh local produce of high quality and a place that will be reminiscent of Space but “above all it will be a testimony to the musical legacy left to us by José Padilla”. He also promised dramatic musical interventions from the world of opera by Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland and Plácido Domingo.

This is great news for San Antonio and a good addition to the sunset strip which should bring in a new crowd to the area.

Meanwhile the veteran Ibiza businessman also has plans to keep the “spirit of Space” alive from next summer in a venue that won’t be announced “until everything has been clarified and signed” although it will be under the name of “Sundays at Space” which gives a clue to its dynamics.

Ibiza Returns to Relative Normality

Finally after all the ups & downs of the last 18 months, the Balearic government has finally lifted most restrictions that signal the beginning of the end of living in a pandemic.

The big news of course is that Ibiza’s world famous clubs are able to open from 8 October however ‘can’ and ‘will’ are 2 very different words. It takes so much energy and expense to open a large discotheque that they may decide to wait for next summer.

The final decision on nightclubs is still subject to a judicial ratification in the next few days that will establish the rules of opening such as whether vaccine certificates will be required and if masks are obligatory in certain areas. It won’t be how it was before and the purists are already kicking off online but it’s another move in the right direction.

Pubs and bars are also now able to open until 4am as long as they have the relevant licence. This will be good news for owner/operators although with only a few weeks of the summer season to go it will also be a bittersweet moment thinking what could have been.

For an island such as Ibiza to ban dancing is tantamount to torture. The White Isle was built on a freedom of expression especially during tough times when people could come here and lose themselves in hedonistic pursuits and dancing is right at the heart of that.

The Balearic Government in all its pomposity seems to have forgotten what’s important and while other tourist destinations were quick to lift restrictions the Balearic have lagged behind.

Despite the Balearic gov’s lack of teeth it’s important not to forget how far we’ve come in such a short space of time and the fact that we are talking about ‘relative normality’ is a massive step. 2021 has been another rollercoaster year but it’s finishing strongly and there’s plenty of momentum going into summer 2022.

Now as restrictions come tumbling down the aforementioned momentum is so important and who’s to say that this season can’t be extended into winter. The weather is still glorious and there will never be a better opportunity but, as always, it depends on connectivity from the airlines so the hope is that they will be brave and play ball or at least give it a go.

The island of dance has finally been given the green light to reopen its dance floors. It’s been a long time coming but 2 years after they last opened their doors the dream has now become a reality.

Ibiza 2022 looks like it will be back to business as usual but for now let’s see if there’s a collective will to take Ibiza kicking and screaming into its first ever viable winter tourist season, something I thought I’d never see. Strange times indeed.

Busy September for Ibiza

We have seen another manic August come and go on the White Isle. The island was over 90% occupied during the busiest month with numerous nationalities enjoying themselves with packed beaches and restaurants there for all to see. Ibiza is now a truly international destination.

Even in these difficult times some businesses have thrived with the new regulations, maximising their time management and workforce. Restaurants are the new nightclubs, eating out is the ‘new’ thing to do. Dancing in chairs has become the norm…for now.

During the peak season the Brits have been noticeable by their lower numbers compared to previous years. The traditional British market is important to the island but none more so than San Antonio which had to find ways to diversify its market when the British government all but banned international travel up until the start of July with its convoluted quarantine requirements

Now we are well into September, the month that Brits usually arrive in big numbers and 2021 looks like it might follow suit, relatively speaking of course. Prices come down, the kids are back to school, the island becomes a little calmer as it takes a breather after the ‘chaos’ of August.

Summer 2021 has once again been affected by travel restrictions and even though Ibiza airport is showing stats similar to 2019, final tourist numbers will be down due to lower load factors but any spike in late season demand is more than welcome and further proof that the island is well on the way to recovery. Ibiza Town is as busy as ever with San Antonio and the Bay still ticking over.

If the weather continues to be good then we could see unprecedented numbers arriving in October as travellers rediscover their mojo and come to the realisation that flying isn’t as difficult as portrayed by the media. Some airlines are already offering direct international flights well into November

In a seasonal economy a strong finish to the summer can make a big difference and the hope now is that as local restrictions ease and international travel becomes more accessible, September, October and possibly even November can be the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake in a year that started without us even knowing if summer 2021 was ever going to happen.

20 years on…

Garlands at the Bahia 11/09/2001

Monday 10 September 2001 in Ibiza was like any other late summer night. August was over but September was firing on all cylinders, San Antonio was awash with young Brits as was the norm for that time of the year. The West End was rocking in the prime of its life.

20 years ago Ibiza was a very different animal to what it is today. There were no beach clubs or daytime distractions, some still call it the glory years with world class, era-defining promotions every single night of the week in the planets best clubs. We never had it so good although we didn’t know it at the time, you never do.

Mondays in Ibiza was all about Manumission at Privilege, the worlds biggest promotion at the worlds biggest club. This particular night was ridiculously busy as was usual for the 2nd week of September, the crowd being whipped into it’s usual frenzy by their resident DJ’s and as the sun appeared through the iconic dome the party moved on to Carry on at Space and then Bora Bora for the hard core.

11 September 2001: I remember it as a normal morning. Crisp blue skies, I was tired from August and looking forward to the end of the summer, very similar to today. Then around lunchtime everything changed.

Sky News is always on in my house, it’s background noise. Feet up on the sofa thinking about a siesta when Kay Burley announced that an aeroplane had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

We all know what happened next so no need to go through the painful details here but as the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground I knew that life had changed forever. There was no WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter or smartphones so it was all about 24 hour news. CNN gave us the heartbreaking US perspective, a nation and the world in a state of shock.

I went back to my office late afternoon and tried to carry on regardless but the mood on the streets of San Antonio was like I had never seen before. The first call I made, Maxine, the young lady on the other end of the phone, was trying to work but openly weeping. As she talked to me I could hear the tears falling.

That night was the Garlands party at the Bahia Hotel (now Ocean Beach Hotel) but there was some confusion about whether it would go ahead but word soon got out that it was happening.

So on the evening of 11 September 2001 after watching in disbelief at so much pain unfolding on our TV’s, myself and several hundred others gathered under the stars and partied like we’d never partied before.

The late great Dave Booth and Huey Garry were on the decks with Grandma Funk doing guest vocals ‘shaking that ass’. Judge Jules and others were at the bar, Ibiza’s response was to go harder than ever before. It was a surreal atmosphere but the mood was upbeat, glad to be alive, this might be the last party for a while so let’s make the most of it.

Recent events have taken over our lives and sometimes it’s easy to forget but every anniversary I always remember those poor innocent lost souls and the time we partied under the stars in Ibiza like there was no tomorrow, because we weren’t sure there would be. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since that fateful day, a lot has changed in 2 decades but lest we forget.

Gastronomy with Entertainment – The New Star of Ibiza

Ibiza’s 2nd summer without nightclubs and a continuing 1am closing time has brought about a shift in evening pursuits with gastronomy taking centre stage.

It’s a long time since chicken, chips and salad was a local delicacy and Ibiza’s worst keep secret is that it’s the home of many wonderful restaurants with some of the finest chefs in Europe and the COVID crisis has put them at the forefront of the changing times. So many great restaurants to choose from including the relatively new phenomenon for high quality food coupled with professional entertainment.

This is hardly a new concept, back in the 80’s and 90’s the Ibiza Casino was as good as it got for this type of evening. A glitzy show with semi naked dancers and a headline act such as the Drifters with questionable food and even more questionable drinks served at the table by hordes of waiters. It was all about quantity wrapped up in a fun evening and for about £35 per person was seen as expensive at the time.

When El Divino nightclub closed down and Pacha Group opened Lio almost 10 years ago, a brand new template was created which has now become an island staple. Lio changed the game for the segment with its incredible backdrop, immersive entertainment, glamorous crowd and eye watering prices. Any doubters were soon proved wrong as those trying to book a table found out.

Ibiza business is never slow to follow a winning formula and Heart soon opened mixing a world-renowned chef with a show to provide more competition to a new market that had started to grow as tastes became more discerning and an older target audience with more money to spend.

Meanwhile STK opened, a further addition catering mainly to an upmarket British crowd trading on a reputation of high quality food mixed with a touch of celebrity that only Ibiza can deliver. We’ve also seen Ushuaia enter the market this summer with their Palmarama evening with big names and an international crowd.

All the the Ibiza establishments naturally add their own unique twist or 2 that’s gold dust for the Instagram generation. Glitz, glamour, fine food, cocktails & a quality show all at a price that would be unthinkable only a few years previously.

The new addition to the scene is ‘528 Ibiza’ who have just extended their debut season. It’s an exciting collaboration between an Ibiza creative icon and an island native of the highest esteem. Andy McKay (of Manumission and Ibiza Rocks fame) has joined forces with Bartolo Escandell, one of Ibiza’s favourite sons who has converted the large outdoor terrace at his Benimussa Park into a spectacular venue mixing old and new with a state of the art stage.

The evening will attract the same target audience as the aforementioned but this one feels more authentically Ibiza from the tasting of traditional fine foods on arrival to a sit down menu of quality food, produced locally, all presented and explained with loving care.

The professional show mixes things up from dramatic dance to acrobats to comedy to crowd-pleasing anthemic song while also giving a nod to the islands history with good old Tanit, making an appearance or 2

The fact that this venue has been converted into something so special focussing on fine food, local culture and professional entertainment proves that Ibiza gastronomy is moving forward at a rapid pace of knots with entrepreneurs looking for new gaps in the market to exploit and there appears to be no lack of demand.

This summer season has been full of surprises as the island jostles to find new products to compensate for the short term loss of traditional ones. Ibiza has not been found wanting and in many ways has solidified it’s position as a high quality upmarket holiday destination and fine food under the stars with profesional entertainment is the new wow on the island.

The Rebirth of San Antonio

COVID has brought about more challenges in 18 months than most of us will see in a lifetime but it has also thrown up opportunities.

Here in Ibiza, San Antonio has had 2 summers like no other. It’s fair to say that ‘San An’ has had an identity crisis over the last 3 decades, from 80’s hooligans to 90’s space cadets to noughties wannabes. It’s had a chequered recent history but times have changed.

The San An identity crisis revolves mainly around one small area called the ‘West End’, a place that was once the envy of the island, it was the market leader in fun and frolics but has gradually spiralled into a lawless abyss where anything goes and everything is for sale.

In 2015 a new socialist government tried to suffocate the West End by banning terraces after midnight and closing all establishments at 3am. These arbitrary measures only ended up causing more mayhem with mass movement at the same hour displacing the problems to other areas.

The people of San An weren’t impressed and the socialist government lasted 1 term before Marcos Serra, a young forward thinking Mayor was elected in 2019. There was much expectation that he would finally get to grips with the challenges of the West End, creating incentives for those wanting to improve the area and coming down hard on anyone stepping out of line. Then along came COVID.

For 2 summers the West End has remained closed apart from a handful of terraces. For all of us who live in San Antonio we have now seen what the town is like without it, without the noise pollution, without the problems it brings and also without the tourists it attracts.

We’ve seen the other side and we now understand that having a central meeting area that attracts life is a fundamental part of any resort town but we need it to be on our terms. A place that is safe, that is clean, a place that offers fun, food and revelry, not just fast food takeaways and all you can drink. A place where your teenage kids can wander freely.

COVID has shown us something that we never thought we’d see. It took a Chinese virus less than 2 months to do what some have been trying to do for over 30 years but is San An a better place without the West End? The jury is out but even though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what we want, we know what we don’t want, we don’t want to go back to how it was before.

The challenge has been laid before us and San An needs to build back better. It’s a cliched political phrase but one that has never been so apt but here’s the good news, San Antonio is already having a rebirth right in front of our eyes.

What better example than the recently opened ‘Base Hotel’ right in the middle of the West End where the dilapidated Hotel Don Juan once stood. Owned and operated by the people who built Hotel Es Vive from nothing to become one of the Balearics most celebrated hangouts before selling out to a company part owned by Lionel Messi no less. After a big refurbishment, the Base Hotel offers rooms of high quality that won’t break the bank.

Only 50 metres away from the Base Hotel at the bottom of the West End is the historic Hotel Portmany. San Antonio’s first ever hostelry has had an expensive refurb and now offers large and luxurious apartments in the heart of the town. Then around the corner is Sa Clau, part of the Mambo group offering quality accommodation. The list goes on.

A little further afield Wikiwoo continues to attract the insta-influencer crowd with it’s photo friendly design and the new, enormous and luxurious 5 star OKU Ibiza has opened in Cala Gracio boasting the largest swimming pool on the island. This has spurred on the ageing Hotel Tanit next door to finally have a multi-million pound makeover which will bring it right up to date and don’t be surprised if it becomes a mini Ushuaia as it’s owned by the same company.

Extensive work has now started on the Hotel Catalina which is directly above Savannah and next to Cafe del Mar. When finished this will be the next big offering by the Mambo group and is set to rejuvenate that area with quality rooms on the sunset strip.

This is only a snapshot of what’s happening and much more will follow. Massive investment in San Antonio all against a backdrop of the biggest crisis in modern history. San An is going from strength to strength, there will always be haters but that comes with the territory and in many ways it’s been self induced over the last 35 years but times have changed and it isn’t 1987 any more.

COVID has inadvertently thrown up the chance for San Antonio to bounce back better in a new and improved way where quality is better than quantity, spenders are better than forcing cheap drinks on unsuspecting youngsters and where a little less can be a whole lot more.

We have seen that we can survive without the West End but we can also see the benefit of a clean and safe, fun filled leisure area that attracts all nationalities and all ages from all over the island. All we need now is for the West End to wake up and embrace the challenge.

Ibiza smiling again but not a time to celebrate yet

So it’s here. After much talk, hearsay and conjecture the UK Government finally put the Balearic Islands on their ‘green list’ and the Brits have started to arrive in their droves.

For those who have been hiding under a rock (and I don’t blame you btw) British tourists now arriving in the Balearic islands do not have to quarantine on their return but do have to take a post arrival test.

The news was a bit of a surprise but the UK government has been consistent in being inconsistent so it shouldn’t have come as such a shock. The news also started a chain reaction that saw many Ibiza businesses scramble to open, mainly those that rely almost exclusively on the British market.

Ibiza is a truly international destination these days so even without the Brits the White isle has been very busy with its own European invasion. Ibiza town has been rocking for weeks with bars showing the Euro football championships on their terraces creating a vibrant and charged atmosphere. The British market is the final piece of the jigsaw and will be very welcome especially in San Antonio which has struggled without its main market.

As much as the news has been welcomed, it also comes with a big caveat. The Balearics are on the UK green ‘watch list’ which enables the UK government to remove a destination with very little notice if they see a rise in infections.

This arbitrary decision making is significant because as we saw when Portugal was put on the green list and then quickly removed, it creates a lack of confidence for travellers to commit to an expensive overseas holiday that might have to be cancelled although I’m pleased to say theres still plenty of demand for San An over Skegness.

So we can be thankful that business is starting to resume but also remember that the rug can be ripped away from us at any time if infection numbers rise dramatically. As we have seen over the last week with a major outbreak amongst several hundred teenage students in Mallorca celebrating the end of school, it’s still too early to let our guard down.

This isolated incident is a sobering reminder that not only will we be walking a Covid tightrope for some time to come but also that Balearic businesses, especially those that attract the party crowd, have a collective responsibility to control their customers as much as possible to minimise the risk of rising infection levels. No one likes a party pooper but after the last 16 months the stakes are too high to throw common sense out of the window.

The last 2 weeks have been a real turning point, it’s amazing to see Ibiza come to life once again. It’s been a long time coming and we should enjoy every day as it comes but with many businesses still unable to open or function to capacity there’s still a long way to go to get back to where we were. Smiles are returning but we aren’t out of the woods just yet.

Adiós San An Workers, it was ‘Fun’

For many years the ‘San An Worker’ was a mainstay of Ibiza’s famous west coast resort.

They were easy to spot and even easier to manipulate. They came in their thousands renting small apartments and using them as dormitories, spending all day in bed, searching for guest list freebies like a heat seeking missile and even starting their own eco-system, culture and vocabulary.

A moment in time that organically appeared, a rite of passage for thousands, an era that lasted for more than a decade. You just have to look at the Facebook groups to see the misty eyed nostalgia that this time evokes amongst middle aged men and women talking about the best time of their lives when life was simpler and when all you had to worry about was the next meal and the next party.

‘Worker’ was always a curious collective noun for a group of young Brits who did nearly everything except work. Their priority was to have fun, workers parties became part of the fabric of San Antonio – free entry, cheaper drinks, worker friendly door staff and DJ’s. A whole culture and micro economy evolved from the freedom that Ibiza gives those willing to immerse themselves. Late nights, even later mornings, a lifestyle that would give your parents nightmares.

A few stayed on the island and settled down like modern day hippes but most shuffled off back to the UK, battered and bruised to shocked parents, friends and partners who couldn’t grasp the carnage that went before.

Workers were a scourge to many and a licence to print money for others but nothing lasts forever. Brexit and Covid changed the rules of the game along with an Ibiza housing shortage that has seen the majority of summer apartments rented annually for better and more stable returns. Ket Castle isn’t a madhouse anymore, it’s now Es Pons, an oasis of calm for private residents.

Things change, evolution is unstoppable but how can we not look back with a knowing nod and a wink on an era that gave us the Sh*t Party and the Peru 2. Shipwrecked, Dirty Rotten Sluts, grimy wristbands, workers club passes, Ket Cove, Space closing and it’s fallout, the Eden back room and after hours parties at Wips….a supermarket. We can also include Star Cafe and then New Star for those of a certain vintage. Daily crises a plenty, you really had to be there to believe it!

Will those days ever return? It’s doubtful as the factors that have rendered them almost extinct won’t be changing any time soon but the Ibiza workers spirit lives on but the modern version actually work for a living yet come together in their spare time to party and chill. An older crowd, a few trustafarians, those who eek a living online while Clockwork Orange have wound back the clock with their Ibiza weekender that emotes of long gone days and pure nostalgia.

Ibiza has changed beyond recognition in a relatively short space of time. It’s still a haven for the free-spirited crowd but the days of the masses having the summer of their lives is something we can look back on with a smile (or a grimace) and for now it’s confined to the history books. As the saying goes…..don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

Time to ‘Hug’ a Tourist

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.