WINTER TOURISM: A CONSPIRACY OF COMPLACENCY?

 

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.

Ibiza’s Winter Tourism Conundrum

  
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. 

Ibiza Authorities Agree on Club Closing Times

Ibiza Town Mayor Rafa Ruiz (PSOE) and President of the Consell Vicent Torres (pic:Nou Diari)

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. 

Source: Diario de Ibiza, Nou Diari, El Periodico

¡Ibiza Shore Cancelado!

  

De manera sorprendente los productores del propuesto show de la MTV “Ibiza Shore” han anunciado la repentina cancelación del reality show televisivo citando “circunstancias más allá de nuestro control”.

El show iba a empezar a ser grabado en las próximas semanas y la cancelación viene después de que el Presidente de la Isla Vicent Torres dijera que cualquier establecimiento que colaborara con los productores seria sujeto a rigurosas inspecciones. Bora Bora renunció rápidamente a su colaboración junto con otros establecimientos de Ibiza… También ha habido una ola de histeria colectiva de los isleños enfadados con este tipo de show que continuamente resalta el sexo, las drogas y la cultura discotequera de la isla.

 El show es la versión española de “Jersey Shore”(EEUU) y “Geordie Shore”(Reino Unido) y sigue a un grupo de individuos atractivos documentando sus subidones y bajones y las relaciones personales dentro del grupo. Por más que los productores intenten decir “es una montaña rusa emocional” no hay duda que es valor de choque, un accidente de coche televisivo.

La pregunta ahora es donde ponemos el límite. Eso significa que TODOS los reality televisivos son persona non-grata o hay una norma para unos y otra para otros. No hay duda que mientras algunos estarán celebrando otros estarán preocupados que esto marque un peligroso nuevo precedente contra la Televisión, que estimula interés a muchos millones de personas diariamente.

Con más programas de Televisión y una película planeados para los próximos meses vamos a ver con qué tipo de reacción serán recibidos antes durante y después de la producción. Este ¿es un guiño por el sentido común o un guiño para la censura indebida? Solo el tiempo lo dirá así que vigilad este espacio pero por ahora el resultado es:

IBIZA 1 – REALITY TELEVISIVO 0

New British Association for San Antonio and The Bay

  A group of prominent San Antonio & Cala de Bou residents and business people have launched a new association to try and give the local British and Irish community a voice over the coming years.

I am honoured to be the inaugural President serving alongside Nathan Seal as Secretary, Julian Cobby as Treasurer with Duane Lineker and Peter Duncan completing the executive committee. 

With a significant shift in political power on the island we all believe that now is the time to get organized and be part of the solution for the future of our town and to create a channel of communication from street level to the offices of power.

We have purposely included residents and businesses to try and cover as many demographics as possible and although we have called it the British and Irish Association we will also be reaching out to other English speaking residents if they want to become involved and if we can help in any way possible. We also hope that this is a blue print for other local communities on the island to form their own associations over the coming years. 

Forming an association is the easy part but more importantly you must have the passion to stand up for what you believe in. A collective speaks for its members and can have more of a voice than a single person when confronting situations that need addressing. 

The association will be having its first fundraising event this Friday at the workers party at Fantasyland (home of the Zoo Project) and over the coming weeks and months we welcome all those who want to be involved in this exciting new era to get in touch so together we can grow organically and go forward with a clear objective and a firm voice.

Press Release

After many years without a clear voice the British and Irish community of San Antonio and Cala de Bou has come together to form an association to represent the interests of the residents and businesses of this area. 

“Asociación de Residentes y Empresarios Británicos en San Antonio y su Bahía (AREBRI)”

The association has been put together by local British and Irish people with a passion for San Antonio & Cala de Bou who want a voice and who want to help in any way possible especially by bringing certain things to the attention of the Town Halls and Consell that directly affect the way we live and work on the island. 

The British and Irish community, through this association, is committed to San Antonio and Cala de Bou and wishes to make a significant contribution to it’s future. 

AREBRI 14 July 2015

Local Press about the Association

Nou Diari  

Diario de Ibiza

Periodico de Ibiza

The Juanjo Ferrer Dilemma

  Juan Jose Ferrer Martinez, head of the centre right PI party, now has a big weight on his shoulders. After 4 years of opposition at San Antonio town hall his party gained 3 seats in the recent municipal elections so he found himself in the unenvious position as kingmaker for the next administration. PP won 8 seats & PSOE/REINICIA won 6 & 4 respectively so his 3 seats were enough to give either side the 11 seats required for an overall majority, so it all came down to him & his party to decide who would be the next Mayor of San Antonio. 

After 4 years of being battered by the absolute majority of the Pepita Gutierrez regime it wasn’t a big surprise that he eventually decided to form a Tri-party coalition with PSOE/REINICIA and make Pep Tur ‘Cires’ the 1st socialist mayor of Ibiza’s 2nd largest town however on paper & character PI have much more things in common with PP so his decision is sure to cause some conflict within his own party but his desire to change San Antonio means that he is now part of a 3 party coalition with those who may not always be on the same page as him.

He was offered the Deputy Mayors job if he sided with the PP but a personality clash between the hierarchy of the 2 parties ensured that this was never really an option.

At yesterday’s inauguration his mood was very upbeat and as we chatted afterwards he told me that he knows that there will be challenging times ahead but he was happy that the people of San Antonio had given him & his coalition a chance to govern and a chance to change San Antonio.

I have known Juanjo since he was a teenage receptionist at a local hotel and he has worked tirelessly over the last 4 years on the opposing side trying to make San Antonio a better place. He now has his desired chance and also the extra responsibility due to his decision to side with PSOE/REINICIA. I wish him well and look forward to seeing the changes that he, Pep Cires and Pablo Valdes have promised for our town. MM

Pep Tur ‘Cires’ is Elected Mayor of San Antonio

This is the moment when Pep Tur ‘Cires’ was elected the Mayor of San Antonio by 13 votes to 8. All 21 councillors have 1 vote and as anticipated the Tri-party coalition of PSOE, REINICIA & PI joined forces to elect a socialist mayor for the first time in San Antonio’ s history. 

The atmosphere was electric with most councillors receiving whoops & applause when entering the chamber. The biggest cheer was for REINICIA’s 4 councillors who’s supporters were euphoric that this little known party had now become the holder of the Deputy Mayors office. The scenes were quite extraordinary with the socialists pumping fists and high giving after so many years of opposition. Especially animated was Pep Marge who has worked very hard for the socialists in San Antonio and now sees his sister Neus sit in one of the elected seats.  

All councillors were sworn in one by one dressed in their Sunday best apart from new Deputy Mayor Pablo Valdes who looked like he was from an indie rock band with ripped jeans, vest and tight jacket. 

The audience boasted at least 4 previous San Antonio mayors plus all the political heavyweights from PSOE such as Vicent Torres, Xicu Tarres and Pilar Costa. 

The PP showed great humility in what was a difficult day for them especially Pepe Sala who will spend the foreseeable future sitting in the chair of the leader of the opposition. 

I managed to talk to nearly everyone of the new local government congratulating them on their coalition pact but also reminding them that of their election promises and their underlying message that they intend to ‘change’ San Antonio for the better. 

So on Monday Mayor Pep Cires, Deputy Mayor Pablo Valdes and 2nd deputy Mayor Juanjo Ferrer will take up their new positions and embark on a new chapter for San Antonio. The campaign has now finished and its time put their words into actions and follow through with their election promises. There is no hiding place, San Antonio and especially myself will be watching. MM