San Antonio’s West End: “The Situation is Unsustainable”

pic: Daniel Espinosa
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.

Source: El Periodico

Original interview: in Spanish

‘Geordie Shore’ Filming in San An

Those ‘cheeky’ Geordie Shore reality TV ‘stars’  (and I use the term very loosely) have been spotted in and around San Antonio surreptitiously filming for their new series.

After being refused permission to film in Mallorca it appears the production company have come over to the White Isle (and more specifically San Antonio) in search of some sexy footage to engage their viewers for the new shows that will air on MTV and if rumours are to be believed they are staying on a CAMP SITE in the north of the island! 

Meanwhile on social media Island residents have been almost unanimous in decrying anyone or place that ‘collaborates’ with the series claiming that they highlight the negatives. Some bars have even threatened to sue the producers of Geordie Shore for filming covertly without permission. This has resulted in the filming being very hush hush and mainly on private premises.

San Antonio councillor Aida Alcaraz has had various meetings reminding local establishments that the programme doesn’t have any permission or licence to film in the public domain but admitted they cannot stop it inside private premises. Sra Alcaraz has also reportedly asked the British Consulate to speak to the producers to confirm if they are filming on the streets and if so to stop immediately. 

Even though they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity it’s the latest rejection by island residents and politicians who are tired of TV companies pillaging Ibiza purely for ratings. Last year the Ibiza government banned MTV from filming MTV’s Spanish version called “Ibiza Shore” after a similar outcry.

Ibiza with its beach clubs and vibrant nocturnal scene is gold dust for many reality TV series as it appeals to a similar demographic even though ‘TOWIE’ left the island with their collective tail between their collective legs claiming that they weren’t ‘made to feel welcome’ in Ibiza.

“10 Commandments for the Good Tourist”

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.

Source: Facebook

Ibiza Govt Declares War on Illegal Holiday Rentals 


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.

Source: Diario de Ibiza

News: Balearic Villa Associations strike agreement for Ecotax Payment 

Roberto San Esteban, President AVAT

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”.

Tourism and Terrorism

After the tragic events of the last few weeks it is tourism once again that is the industry to suffer most. It highlights the fickle nature of the business and brings home it’s importance especially when you live on a small island that relies on it.

First of all here’s a quick overview (apologies but it’s needed for context)

1. March 2015 –  terrorists attack the Bardo National Museum in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis with 22 deaths, mostly European tourists.

2. June 2015 – a lone gunman murders 38 tourists in Sousse, Tunisia; 30 of which are British. The hotel is targeted to undermine tourism and because they are considered ‘brothels’ by ISIS.

3. October 2015 – Metrojet flight 7K268 from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg explodes over the Sinai desert killing all 224 on board, 219 are Russian.

4. November 2015 – the terrible events in Paris unfold with 129 innocent people murdered in cold blood and which need no further detail here.

All this tragic loss of life plus a catastrophic effect on the tourist industries of Egypt and Tunisia which rely on foreign currency. It has also undermined the security measures of these gateways, something from which they may never recover.

In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks the companies hit hardest on the stock market were TUI (down 4.1%), British Airways/Iberia owners IAG (down 2.8%) and Thomas Cook (down 4.8%) proving that confidence in travel is the first thing to wane after any terrorist attacks. They will most likely recover as time passes but it shows the fragility of the market in general and it’s constant need to find new destinations and products.

As we have seen after previous incidents the world will keep turning and statistically it’s still the safest time in history to travel. These days people are made of stern stuff and have relatively short memories so the North African disasters will only open up opportunities for other destinations such as the Canary Islands, Cyprus and Malta for those wanting a little winter sun. Even Ibiza might ‘benefit’ from tourists wanting to stay a little closer to home, especially as more winter flights are coming in and 2016 will see Ryanair setting up a ‘base’ on the island.

So in the big scheme of things where does all this leave Ibiza, the ‘party island’ only 2 hours flight away from London? Regardless of whether we can supply the demand for short haul winter city breaks, Ibiza will do what it’s always done: Carry on!

So as our elected politicians talk about a tourist tax and a change of the ‘touristic model’ the events over the last 12 months should, if nothing else, hammer home our island’s 100% reliance on tourism and the fact that we need to cherish it with humility and not take it for granted.

As other destinations have discovered to their cost it can be taken away from you all too easily.

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.