The continuing battle between Ibiza residents and tourists has taken a further twist with the forming of “Prou!”, a new pressure group that wants to combat the “abuses of tourism” that many feel are occurring on the island.
Prou held it’s first public meeting last week at the ‘Club Diario de Ibiza’ filling the auditorium and exceeding its 200 capacity, a sign of the growing discontent of the direction the island is going.
Vicent Planells, a former bank manager, explained that the group has emerged spontaneously through Facebook. “We are ordinary Ibiza people who are fed up with what is happening on the Island”
The group announced that it will hold “peaceful and silent” protests against harmful or illegal tourism activities when institutional action does not work. To do this the group has “a hundred people to perform these actions,” explained Sandra Serra.
Historian and teacher Neus Escandell opened the meeting by saying that “tourism must serve to improve the quality of life, not to make it worse.” Highlighting the importance of the industry to the economy of the island but saying that “the culprits are not tourists but businessmen and politicians who have allowed us to reach the current situation,” characterised by the “privatisation” of the the beaches, noise pollution and illegalities of some companies.
Lawyer Rosa Redolat said it would be sufficient if existing laws were enforced. “There is a general feeling of passivity and neglect. Had laws been enforced from the outset we would not have come this far”. Redolat said whilst accusing politicians of “passing the buck to each other” citing a lack of coordination with the posidonia* situation or the large mansion given the go ahead to be built on protected land near Cala d’Hort.
School teacher Agustin Garcia further explained “the word collapse is on everyone’s lips, Ibiza is in danger of becoming a theme park due to lack of control, tourism must have limits, as a matter of survival”.
Vicent Planells continued “the whole island is being converted into a one large discotheque. A hotel is a nightclub, a boat is a nightclub and a country house also becomes a nightclub.”
Prou reinforced this by inviting a child to explain that on the night of Space Closing the music was so loud that inside his bedroom it felt like he was in the nightclub.
Prou! has promised regular meetings and is preparing a strategy for the coming months and summer 2017.
*Posidonia oceanica (commonly known as Neptune Grass or Mediterranean tapeweed) is a seagrass species that is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea. It forms large underwater meadows that are an important part of the ecosystem.
Pep Colomar, the President of San Antonio’s West End Association has spent half his life working in one the town’s and Ibiza’s most famous and busiest streets, firstly helping with the family business then taking the reins of the popular Bar Colon.
Now 37 years old, he has witnessed the evolution of San Antonio and remembers a different West End: “For years Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians came … it was very different from now.” Colomar is convinced that the return to that type tourism is possible, “it only takes the will of the people and the town hall to enforce the law”.
Here in an interview with Ibiza daily paper El Periodico he gives his views on the summer season so far.
Q: As we come into the peak season, from your experience, how do you think it’s going?
A: The Season is more or less like last year. This year started earlier and we had a pretty good May and June like last year but unfortunately we still have the same problems as every year: PR’s, illegal street sellers, prostitution, crime and theft.
Q: Last year the change of government occurred during the season but I understand that there are things that haven’t changed?
A: This winter, like every year, we talked with the Town Hall to plan the season. The Illegal PR situation had become a problem, each bar and club were allowed to have a specific number of legal PR’s in certain areas but unfortunately the old rules weren’t followed and the news rules have just aggravated the problem.
Q: How come?
A: The old rules weren’t followed and the numbers were exceeded. The Town Hall said it was difficult to distinguish legal PR’s from illegal PR’s (even though the legal ones wore reflective vests) and said it was difficult to enforce the law. On this basis the Town Hall decided to completely ban ‘dynamic publicity’. We agreed as long as it was enforced. Now can see that it isn’t being enforced and the unfair competition is brutal. Those who fail to comply with the law have grown and become strong and it has been a huge disadvantage for those who do not have people outside their bars trying to attract customers inside. Many are falling into despair and desperation because no correct measures are taken or being enforced.
Q: What does the Town Hall say?
A: We have talked with them 3 times since May and their consistent answer is that they are acting to enforce the law but they aren’t doing enough. This failure is causing us many difficulties and problems within the West End Association. There are people who are already saying that they can’t follow the law because their neighbours are ignoring it and they are suffering, it’s a very serious problem. They feel helpless because their neighbours have PR’s, loud music, open doors yet are calm because nothing happens, no police and no formal complaints.
Q: The problem lies in the failure to enforce the law?
A: Yes. If you have a law then you must enforce it. The laws have been passed but it is very difficult to monitor compliance if there are no police officers. We need more police in all areas and is absurd to not have enough. If there are no police on the street it is useless to have a law that penalises bars, the Town Hall should prioritise and tackle the most serious problems first. We have asked that if they can’t enforce the law then at least they should allow dynamic publicity again. Last year we hired private security guards but were told they weren’t allowed to do the work of the police so we asked the Town Hall, as an emergency measure, to let them accompany police officers but they said no.
Q: Is it increasingly urgent to change the San Antonio tourism model?
A: Yes, it’s urgent. The process needs to start so we can fix the things that are wrong. That’s not to say I just want nice families to come to San Antonio and nothing else because you can’t change overnight. If there are still these problems of public order, drugs, prostitution, crime then the model cannot change. First you have to fix all that and then the model will change automatically. It’s absurd to go to a trade fair to sell a San Antonio that does not exist. We must fix the problems first and them the model will change.
Q: How do you make the change?
A: The model change should be encouraged by both sides. The Town Hall enforcing the rules and entrepreneurs working differently, offering a higher quality product. The problem is that if the Town Hall doesn’t do enough then there are many bar owners who out of greed or whatever will continue to work illegally because it’s easier and more profitable but this shouldnt be the case. We are complementary offer. For us, if there is a change in the tourism model them it should be relatively simple to adapt to our business. This year there are 4 bars fully reformed in Calle Santa Agnès. But again, the priority is to end the unfair competition. It all starts with the rules. If you make laws then don’t enforce them you create 2 problems.
Q: So the ball is back in the Town Hall’s court?
A: Aida Alcaraz (Councillor for the Interior) tells us that they are making policing arrangements, but the reality is that the same problems are still here. It’s not enough and the situation has got worse. There is good dialogue with the Town Hall but this in itself is not enough, specific actions are required. I understand that we demand a lot but this is because they do little. Always they argue that their hands are tied by the law but as entrepreneurs we must demand certain things as we pay taxes and they have created rules that have not been met and have in fact had a perverse effect. If you create rules and can’t enforce them then that is making the situation worse as well as committing an injustice. They must be realistic about the strength of the local police, they say there are more agents than ever in San Antonio but the reality is that there are clearly insufficient. In addition agents do jobs that aren’t theirs, they are overwhelmed.
Q: Despite all these obstacles, it is possible to change San Antonio?
A: I think so. Everyone in San Antonio wants better and if everyone pushes in the same direction then the model change is possible. We agree with the rules but when you do not know how to enforce the remedy then it becomes worse than the disease. We understand that the police are overwhelmed but employers also also overwhelmed with a sense of desperation that the rules are not being enforced and some people do exactly what they want. They say complaints for non-compliance will be processed faster but nothing has changed. The situation has reached a point that is unsustainable and changing the tourism model is urgent.
San Antonio Town Hall Councillor (and teacher) Francisco Tienda gives us his 10 Commandments for the Good Tourist (and good Ibicencos who do not know how lucky they are to live where they live):
1. Let us accept that music in Ibiza is important but need not be in every corner of the island at every time of day. Please, a little silence is not a bad thing.
2. What the sea leaves us on our beaches is not dirt but aquatic plants and algae that are necessary for the sea to remain so wonderful. What is dirt is what we throw into the water that does not belong to any marine ecosystem.
3. Any corner of any road is not a car park. As much as we pretend there will come a time when no more cars will fit on the island. At least park in a suitable place even if you have to walk a little. A stroll on our coastline and through our countryside is very agreeable, good for photos and great for your heart.
4. On our island live people with very different schedules to those on holiday. They lead normal lives, they work then they sleep. If you walk through the streets screaming at night they have every right to be upset at your behaviour.
5. Our streets are not beaches, please put some clothes on to walk around the town centre, not just a bikini or swimsuit. Agreed, there are some bodies that deserve to be shown but reserve that pleasure for the areas more suitable.
6. We are a civilized island with rubbish bins and containers. No need to throw litter everywhere, it doesn’t cost anything to put it in the right places. The area around the containers is called a street not a compost heap.
7. As much as the national and international press seek to convince otherwise, Ibiza is not a drug vending machine. Here is the same as anywhere else with tourism and nightlife. Nobody forces you to consume anything you shouldn’t, do not use the island to justify your actions as that is the cheapest excuse.
8. The Island was here long before the clubs and they weren’t the first attractions either. The world doesn’t end when the clubs close its not a disaster of there’s no ‘carry on’. If you take off your sunglasses and stay a little sober you may find that you are in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
9. We are an island surrounded by salt water, around and below. Wasting drinking water hurts us ibicencos (or should). Be aware of this problem, especially those who come from a place where it rains 1000 times a year and have very large rivers.
10 Try to enjoy local food and centuries-old authentic Ibizan culture. The people of this island are warm and friendly and will make you feel at home. Although if you come only to drink your own drink, eat your own food, speak your own language, watch your football games and listen to your music without leaving your hotel pool …. you probably didn’t need to travel so far.
The standoff between Amnesia & San Antonio Council has taken another turn with the announcement that the SuperClub has changed its hours for its widely anticipated opening party.
A statement from the club explains that it has decided to open from 4pm on 28 May and continue until 6am because it has been denied a morning licence and “despite the continuous obstacles and disadvantages….we will fight so that the magic continues in Ibiza and make sure the music never stops” encouraging people to use the hashtag #youwillneverdancealone
This is part of an ongoing row which has seen the club continually flout the law by closing late and then paying the ensuing fines. Amnesia has had 31 sanctions over the last 2 years paying fines totalling 102,000 euros leading to San Antonio Town Hall’s decision to refuse the extended hours application for its owning party.
Opening at 4pm is a surprising turn of events but Amnesia was left with no other option under current legislation if it wanted to extend its hours. Mirroring Space’s opening hours model is a risky strategy especially as other opening parties are on the same day however Amnesia has consistently delivered the goods and is rated by many as the best SuperClub opening on the White Isle.
The Ibiza Island Council has confirmed that they are gearing up for a big crackdown on the illegal supply of tourist holiday homes.
With the help of a specialist computer program the Ibiza government say they will be able to keep track of all properties being advertised for rental on the internet and detect the ones that are doing so without a licence and therefore illegally.
The new software comes at a cost 3,000 euros and has been provided by a specialised company. “It is a perfect tool that has been created by people who know a lot in the matter,” said Vicent Torres ‘Benet’ the Island’s Director of Tourism.
The Ibiza government and other pressure groups blame the proliferation of illegal holiday homes for the alarming lack of annual rental accommodation available to residents. Rental platforms such as Airbnb and Holiday Lettings have given Ibiza home owners the opportunity to ‘cash in’ during the peak summer months however this has caused the demand for long term accommodation to reach unprecedented levels. The homeless charity Caritas has also weighed into the debate calling for urgent action citing that some workers with contracts are being forced to pay 500 euros per month to sleep on a balcony.
The island government say that the computer software will become effective ‘in the next 10 days’ to begin sweeping the net in search of properties being offered illegally for holiday rental. According to Torres, the application will be “very important” to combat the problem. “This program provides so much information that the Tourism Inspectors can now open an investigation without visiting the site which was previously required”.
Those found to be illegally renting their properties face fines from 4,000 to 40,000 euros, depending on the severity of the offence. Legal tourist holiday homes must meet a series of requirements including a certain number of bathrooms as well as other health and safety features.
Representatives of the Balearic Villa Associations have come to an agreement in principal with the tax authorities on how to collect and pay the the new tourist ‘ECOTAX’ that’s due to be imposed this coming summer.
The tax will be calculated using a ‘modules system’ that takes into account the sleeping capacity of the villa plus the dates it is occupied. This does not apply to private apartments as under current legislation it is prohibited for them to be rented out to tourists.
Roberto San Esteban, President of AVAT (the Ibiza and Formentera Villa Association) said that this is the “least worst” way for owners to collect and pay the tax but regrets that many villas are already booked for the coming summer forcing his members to “pay more”.
The payment formula will be introduced at the same time as the new law is implemented and instead of paying the usual €1 + IVA per person per night the villa owners and operators will pay according to the size of the property and number of bedrooms/beds. San Esteban went on to say that many villas are in the process of legalization so as yet “there is no control” over them.
It’s also been agreed that because each of the Balearic Islands has different occupation months this will be taken into account using a ‘correction factor’. San Esteban commented that holiday homes in Mallorca have a 6 month period of occupation while Ibiza only has three and a half months and Menorca and Formentera even less. “We discussed this correction factor and reached a consensus. Now we just need the approval of Viviana de Sans” said the representative of AVAT, which has 212 members even though the official number villas registered or being registered in Ibiza stands at 1,900.
The tax payment will take place between May and June of the following year of activity; i.e. owners/operators will pay the ECOTAX for summer 2016 in 2017. As the first year is “difficult to assess”, from January next year, interested parties may change to a module that better suits depending on the activity recorded in the previous summer but San Esteban warns that the Tax Agency has control mechanisms in place to ensure that villa owners/operators do not try to avoid paying part of the tax with a module that isn’t representative of the actual occupation. “Just by looking at electricity and water bills you can see the use (and occupation) of the property”.
It was also agreed at the meeting that a Balearic ‘holiday home’ census would be created for the first time using all available data from the tax agency and the Balearic Ministry of Tourism.
San Esteban welcomed the special inspections recently announced by Viviana de Sans for this coming summer to root out unfair competition and expected them to be “intense”. The President of AVAT remarked that there are unscrupulous operators who come to the island for August armed with just a website and a mobile phone who don’t pay any taxes and deceive clients who are left stranded without any liability insurance”.
After almost 25 years the fabled goats of Es Vedra have now been eradicated from the small islet that lies off the west coast of Ibiza. 5 females and 1 male were introduced to Es Vedra in 1992 however the Balearic and Island governments have now decided to get rid of them to “recover the native flora of the rock”.
After consultation it was decided that the best way was to kill them rather than remove them so yesterday (4 Feb 2016) environmental agents sailed over to the islet and at 8am began shooting all the helpless creatures. By 2pm their grisly task was complete although they will return today to ensure that none were missed in the cull.
The slain animals will be left on Es Vedra to decompose naturally as it was also deemed too dangerous to remove the carcasses even though this is technically against the law (according to Ley 8/2003 de Sanidad Animal).
Caterina Amengual, Director of Natural Areas and Biodiversity for the Balearic Department of Environment (belonging to the environmentalist coalition ‘MES per Mallorca’) said “it’s a question of priorities and the conservation of ecosystems is a priority. We have an obligation to protect natural areas”.
The Ibiza Insular Minister of Environment, Miquel Vericad of GUANYEM EIVISSA, congratulated the Balearic Government for the decision to remove the goats commenting “We have a duty to protect our heritage, which makes it unique to Es Vedra and Ibiza.”
Some local residents are very upset about the decision especially as the same government recently proudly announced that the Balearics were ‘anti-bull fighting’. Ibiza residents are well known for their love of all animals so they are decrying this as double standards.
The goats of Es Vedra could be clearly seen from sailing vessels and were part of the myth and aura of the rock. I myself have spent many hours moored around Es Vedra trying to convince friends aboard that the goats actually existed. Sometimes we left without seeing them but many times we were able to spot some of the herd carefully traversing the steep rock face. It’s an extremely sorry end to a story that I often told and always put a smile on my face (especially when I was proved right over the doubters).
The Balearic & Ibiza government have been unequivocal in saying that this was the best course of action in protecting one of Ibiza’s most famous landmarks but a small light has gone out on the mythical rock and you can’t help thinking they have taken the easiest and cheapest option. Delivering death to Es Vedra is not good Karma but the environmental experts know what they are doing after all, don’t they?
In today’s guest blog Frank Leavers gives his views on winter tourism in the Balearic Islands. Frank is a journalist and broadcaster who writes for the Majorca Daily Bulletin and other English language titles in Spain and beyond.
I have to say that the recent weather here across the Balearics has been wonderful, so much so that everyone I know has been saying the same thing i.e.……. it’s a pity that the islands seems to have shut-up-shop as if to spite themselves. To be perfectly honest I’m not sure what the authorities can do, but it seems such a pity that already tumbleweed is blowing through the streets of resort towns the length and breadth of our region. I know that I am not being particularly original, but could it be that in this regard, the local authorities and hoteliers are their own worst enemies?
Yes I know that you cannot keep a resort open upon the whim of a week of unseasonably warm weather, but it seems to me that sometimes we should be able to be a little quicker on our feet and think positively, so as to be more able to react to changing situations. In saying this, I can almost see the eye rolling and harrumphing reaction that last sentence will provoke within the ‘industry’ as it metaphorically stacks chairs on tables and closes its doors to the world. “We’re shut; now go away and find a place in another country that might appreciate your off-season business.” Could it be that local tourism and those who operate within it have become lazy and complacent and are quite happy for the island to operate on a four/five month per-annum calendar?
Looking back and trying to be honest; were we just a magnet for non-spending pensioners who would smuggle bread rolls into their hotel rooms, or is that something we have been ‘sold’ by the regional holiday industry in subsequent years as a sort of excuse, come alibi, to salve the consciences of the powers-that-be? Forget rose-tinted-glasses, if my memory is correct and properly intact, there was a lot more to winter tourism here than gaggles of pensioners escaping from northern Europe trying to keep warm in the winter.
Yes I know that I am being provocative on this issue; but has it ever occurred to anyone else that over the past decade, this industry has chosen to basically close the doors to the islands rather than to either suffer extra labour costs, or compromise other hotels within their large corporate groups elsewhere in the world? And then we have local and central government……aided and abetted by the trade unions, which because of their various inflexibilities are quite happy to pay out millions upon millions of euros in unemployment benefits rather than to stay open for winter business even if it was promoted on a bit-by-bit yet broad basis.
Indeed, it is only now that the authorities have woken up to the fact that many affluent mid-range tourists take winter breaks and are not wedded to the idea of lying on a beach for short week (or long weekend) but want an ‘activity’ holiday that might include cycling or walking in the mountains and along our many beautiful beaches whilst taking in Balearic culture and gastronomy. Come on, it really isn’t rocket science surely?
Quite rightly, amongst publications such as the Ibizan, Majorca Daily Bulletin and individual lobby groups and individuals there has been pressure brought to bear on budget airlines to continue flying over the winter period to regional and national outposts in the north of England and Scotland in particular, areas particular poorly served by winter flights. Yet, I suspect that I am not alone in thinking that unless you wish to stay with family or friends, or have a taste (or pocket!) for corporate 5 star hotels in Palma or Ibiza Town it would be hardly worth the effort.
I have a friend who is a very senior insider within the industry and he tells me that it wasn’t that long ago that in general the Balearic Islands had a “robust” winter holiday profile and it wasn’t any cyclical recession or financial downturn that put an end to that ten or more years ago. No, it was the industry itself that had grown sated by short-term profits and felt that winter tourism here in these islands was hardly worth bothering about given their growing ‘foreign’ portfolios, regional government apathy and local trade union intransigence.
As our island politicians return from an all-expenses paid trip to London’s World Travel Market the topic of winter tourism has raised its head yet again.
This has been exasperated by the warm autumn weather that has seen Ibiza reach temperatures of up to 30 degrees in the sun and also the Sharm el-Sheikh tragedy that saw a jetliner bought down (apparently by a bomb) with a large loss of innocent lives. This tragedy along with the Tunisian lone gunman has seen traditional North African destinations become almost no-go zones for tourists leaving the travel market looking for more short haul options for winter destinations.
Even though the opportunity is right in front of us the commercial and political will of the Island suggests that despite the posturing our leaders are content with the status quo of busy summers followed by very quiet winters that allows for a great quality of life. Put simply, they earn enough in the summer so don’t need to open in the winter.
For those not in a privileged position, Ibiza’s unemployment queues get longer in the winter so why can’t the money spent on stemming the flow of poverty be used for creating jobs? The current situation sees many families on the breadline by January. Surely better to invest in people than effectively pay them to do nothing.
On the island itself the subject of winter tourism is very polarizing with many wanting to carry on with the traditional 6 months on/6 months off and others moaning about the lack of work opportunities.
Those that denounce the idea of winter tourism saying such things as the island ‘needs a rest’ and ‘we love the peace and quiet in the winter’ obviously know very little about it as it’s completely different to the summer with an older more discerning tourism showing interest in local culture and society.
Many miss the fact that Ibiza is already open for winter tourism but it isn’t doing it very well.
As a destination the island has a whole range of activities from cycling to walking to gastronomy to sightseeing to yoga to relaxing at spas: the spectrum is huge.
Most towns on the island have activities every weekend which are inclusive and fun yet they don’t seem able to advertise and get the message out there to anyone apart from an inner circle who seem to know everything. It’s all very last minute and tourism doesn’t work like that nowadays with forward planning needed to take advantage of lead-in prices.
Air Europa and Vueling have more flights, BA now operate a successful program of daily winter flights from London and Ryanair are opening an Ibiza base in March 2016 so as things are looking very rosy for an increased number of winter connections now would appear to be the time to push on.
Ibiza in winter has the climate, it has the product and it has the location so we urgently need to to extend the tourist season not by making into a Benidorm or a December into August but by making March and November similar to April and October. The problem is that to do that the Island has to be open for business on a bigger and better scale and that right there is the biggest challenge.
Vicent Torres, President of ibiza’s Island Council, and the 5 mayors of the different municipalities have come together to put in place an agreement on the closing times for clubs and music bars across the island that will come into force before next summer.
Big Clubs such as Amnesia, Privilege, Pacha, DC10, Space and Sankeys will now have to be closed by 6.30am whilst music bars (known locally as cafe concierto’s) must be closed by 5am.
The new local laws will have wide ranging effects not least in Ibiza Town where music bars have historically stayed open until 6.30am. There will be no real change in San Antonio which has already operated under a 5am licence for music bars (AND cafe concierto’s) over the last 2 summers.
It was also announced that if any establishments willingly break the law then the authorities “will impose sanctions that are commensurate with the offence committed, especially repeat offenders”. This last comment from Torres was aimed squarely at Amnesia which closed late over the past summer on no fewer than 15 occasions including a massive 7 hours late for their closing party. Torres went on to say that closure orders could be imposed.
This agreement will not be received too well by the nocturnal business people of the island who feel they have been squeezed over the last few years plus it will be a blow to Ibiza’s reputation as a party island especially with other destinations knocking on the door. However some residents and other pressure groups will be relieved that there has been stricter rules bought in to minimise noise and traffic.
Only time will tell whether these new laws will be strongly enforced but in the meantime the mud slinging still hasn’t stopped with clubs and beach clubs consistently accusing each other of illegalities. As always it’s never dull on the white isle.