Local Supermarket Closure Highlights the New Ibiza

Casa Alfonso to Close
The closure of Casa Alfonso supermarket in San Antonio has been met by much sadness from the local community with some even suggesting it’s another nail in the Ibiza coffin.
Casa Alonso was a family run business in the heart of San Antonio, part shop, part delicatessen, part meeting point. It had been open for over 100 years but as a medium size supermarket it found itself stuck between the big boys of Mercadona & Lidl and the small specialists who serve specific areas.
For years this type of small family business was protected by a local law that meant it was forbidden for big national chains to open in Ibiza but this was changed a few years ago so the Island became fair game for the big names to come and open their football pitch sized businesses.
Decathlon opened as did Zara and Mango. Mercadona and Lidl also hit the island hard opening in multiple locations. With all the new competition certain businesses struggled. Sports shops were especially hit hard as Decathlon had everything under one roof plus plenty of staff on hand to help out.
The locals, who had previously had to fly to Barcelona, Madrid or Palma, lapped it up after years of having to shop at small local stores with not a great amount of choice, higher prices than the mainland and that famous Ibiza level of service.
Some businesses changed their strategy. The La Sirena and Art stores for example, went from selling cheap sports gear with some tacky souvenirs thrown in to offering more quality brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Quiksilver and Billabong. They went from sports shop to lifestyle boutique and didn’t even stop for breath while the ones who carried on selling cheap sportswear were closed within a year as Decathlon do an industrial scale.
For every success there’s also a failure but that’s business for you, especially retail with so many fighting for your money. Adapt or die, find a way, survival of the fittest, use any cliche you want, the business jungle is a tough place all over the world but on a seasonal island it’s especially ruthless where numbers go through the roof for only 100 days a year.
I’ve seen it myself first hand. In 1999 I opened Ibiza Travel Shop specialising in last minute flights buying at £50 and selling af £99. We had unbelievable growth until the internet decided that everyone could become their own travel agent. Out went handwritten flight tickets and high margins and in came full transparency with no place to ‘hide’ the profit. We went from glory to closure inside 5 years.
It was a harsh lesson but the market changes and you have to diversify at worst and preempt at best. If you think you can carry on doing the same old thing forever then you will get a rude awakening at some point and Ibiza is no different.
The modern day Ibiza now has Decathlon, Mercadona, Lidl, Zara with more to come. They here employ many local people using many local products. It’s also worth mentioning that Leroy Merlín has recently closed down. Competition is competition no matter what your size.
The bottom line was that the law that protected local business also removed competition and created monopolies with poor service. I for one took great exception to my choice being limited not because of market forces but because of self serving laws.
Of course it’s a shame that a small and friendly family business at the heart of San Antonio is closing down but it’s also another example that Ibiza is now fully integrated into the real world where you have to constantly improve and diversify or ultimately fail.

‘Instagramism’ not Hedonism in Ibiza

Over the last few years we have witnessed the biggest change ever to the Ibiza tourist demographic, especially in May, June, September and October when the weekend tourist has become the dominant  player in the market.

It’s the market segment that everyone wants a piece of, 25-50 year olds travelling without kids and focusing on a long weekend of fun with a pocketful of money to spend. 

Only a few years ago this was the scenario when booking a holiday

  1. Book a 7 or 14 night package holiday with a travel agent. 
  2. Buy a travel guide and read it before bed.
  3. Arrive in Ibiza, go to welcome meeting and book an excursions/club tickets from your rep or local outlet. 
  4. Discover Ibiza at your leisure via research or word of mouth/recommendations. 
  5. Spend your hard earned money on a mixture of local restaurants, cheesy bars and world class clubs. 

Fast forward to 2018 and this is more likely be the scenario

  1. Follow all major Ibiza clubs and events on social media
  2. Identify dates when desired Ibiza events are happening
  3. Pre-book all club tickets
  4. Pre-book restaurant reservations and beach beds 
  5. Book a dynamic package online, fly to Ibiza for long weekend with pocket full of cash

The social media age means that there are no secrets anymore plus everything is pre-planned and pre-booked for busy itineraries that leave little to chance in the short window of opportunity that a 4 day trip to Ibiza allows.

The big Ibiza players now spend millions on their social media, spoon feeding the herd with all the necessary calls to action: Big opening parties, special guests, one-off parties. The cyber-sell is constant and goes direct to your smartphone when you are on the bus in the morning, during your lunch break at work and just before you settle down to watch your evening soaps.

Once this demographic arrive on the island their itinerary goes into full swing with little time for anything else. No discovering delicious local restaurants or souvenir shopping for local wares, nothing that isn’t near the major tourist traps. Very little spontaneity.

And then it gets really strange. Enjoying yourself now ranks a poor second behind updating your own social media feed. After all you’ve spent the last 11 months being inundated with Ibiza spam directly to your smartphone and tablet and now it’s your turn to personally get involved. Facebook posts, check-ins, Instagram stories, posts and tweets. At any big event most phones are switched to live feed. And by the way I’m as guilty as anyone…”my name is Martin and I’m addicted to social media”.

The successful businesses in Ibiza are those that understand the need for social media, embrace it and force it down your throat, those that don’t are falling by the wayside.  Who doesn’t like an Ibiza summer pic on a cold rainy December day? This creates the desire to do it yourself, whether it be a sunset pic, feet up on a boat, a magnum of champagne at a beach club or body glitter at your favourite evening club, these are the things that are a quintessential part of Ibiza in the early part of the 21st century. Bragging rights now determine which businesses succeeds, Ibiza is social media gold after all.

No wonder the old school shake their collective heads at the Ibiza of 2018 because for the new generation, weaned on reality TV and smartphones, hedonism has now been replaced by ‘Instagramism’ and the search for that perfectly staged profile pic has become more important than the actual experience behind it.

Ibiza: That was the Summer but Where’s the Money?

Woohoo it’s October in Ibiza, one of my favourite months, and as we pore over the conflicting stories of the summer it’s time to look forward to winter and analyse what’s gone before us.

If you came to Ibiza this summer and hadn’t been for a few years then you would be amazed at the changing dynamic of the island. The quality is undoubtedly going up with more fine restaurants and 4 and 5 star hotels than ever before but with it has come sky high prices which has marginalised the ‘normal’ man or woman in the street gathering negative headlines.

A capital city with amazing super yachts but with a diminishing soul as the millionaires take over not to mention new noise laws that are killing live music, a staple that this wonderful island was founded on.

Ibiza is changing and it’s hard to see where it’s all going without a coherent plan. The island’s elections are here in May 2019 and you can’t help thinking that this is a pivotal time in the Balearic archipelago’s recent history. The current politicians have been favouring residents needs over the benefits of tourism and the next election will be fought along similar lines.

For the last 3 and a half years Ibiza’s island government along with the town councils of San Antonio, Ibiza and San Jose have been run by socialist coalitions who have found it tough going presiding over the biggest shift in Ibiza tourism since the 70’s bucket and spaders lapped up sangria and donkey rides. A seismic shift that Ibiza wasn’t prepared for, and still isn’t.

The average stay on the island is now down to 4 nights which gives the paying clients only a small window of opportunity to do things and spend their hard earned money and in this social media fuelled world it’s the same old venues reaping the rewards of these short duration holidays.

Arrive, check in to a 4 star hotel, straight to Ushuaia or Hard Rock then over to Hï into the small hours. Up and out to Blue Marlin, followed by Pacha or Amnesia. Day at Ocean Beach or Nikki Beach followed by nothing much else then it’s almost time to go home. No time to discover this beautiful island or the scores of incredible restaurants for the Weekend Warriors but more than enough time to drop a couple of thousand euros at the same places, in fact the spend per person has never been as high but only a few are benefitting.

Whatever your political viewpoint the island has seen changes beyond our wildest dreams or worst nightmares. Some businesses have surged ahead while other predominantly small family traders are scratching their heads as their traditional market dissipates beyond all recognition as they struggle to come to terms with the changing market. It’s safe to say that 2018 has been a polarising year in many ways.

So as we relax a little in October and pick the bones out of another summer it’s difficult to envisage where it’s all going to end. With every boom comes a bust and with every VHS story there’s also a Betamax equivalent but also don’t be too fooled by the ‘Ibiza is 20% down stories’. Ibiza has experienced incredible growth in recent years and it was impossible to remain on this upward trajectory. A bad year in Ibiza is a good year anywhere else in Spain.

It’s an uncertain world out there and Ibiza is no different. Let’s hope the new breed of 2019 politicians address the real problems and come up with a coherent and focussed plan that protects locals but also embraces our only commodity although if recent history is anything to go by then let’s not hold our breath just yet. At least you can never accuse Ibiza of being boring.

My Secret Ibiza Monthly Diary

October is here! Every month in Ibiza is completely different, here’s a snippet of my secret monthly diary from the White Isle, a snapshot of living here 12 months a year…..

January – Post Xmas blues are kicking in, kids are back at school and it’s cold (well 12 degrees). Funds running low after an excessive festive season so time to hibernate and plan for the summer. Must do those house jobs I meant to do in November.

February – Carnival time on the island but money running really low now, it’s cold outside (well 11 degrees) so my box sets are getting plenty of action. Thank god for Netflix and chill. Is it summer yet?

March – Weather picking up, bank account is on empty but past caring. Ryanair international flights starting so light at the end of the tunnel. Time to visit friends in UK (not that they are bothered) and try and convince them not to come in August.

April – Easter is here and the island is starting to come alive, Better start all the jobs I should have done in November. Island gets busy for 4 days then goes back to relative normality. Not sure I’m ready for summer….

May – Summer is finally here and who are those people walking around in shorts and flip flops on a chilly day (I’ve got a fleece on). I don’t want to share my island just yet but business is business so think of the money and crack on. Traffic getting bad.

June – Clubs are open and the island is getting busier by the day. Weather is great but the traffic is getting worse. Kids have broken up for nigh on 3 months (WTF) and the tourists are starting to annoy me a little but need to stay focussed. How long until winter?

July – Wow it’s hot! Island is busy busy and I’m now on autopilot. Need to get out and do more things or it will be winter soon. Oh no what’s that I see on the horizon, it can’t be surely but oh yes it’s Au…

August – The month that seems to last a year! The Island is FULL. International tourists are everywhere, are they scowling at me or am I getting paranoid? Must be the sun! Time to grit your teeth and get on with it between friends and family arriving on an almost daily basis (god bless them). Phone ringing every 30 seconds. Dreaming of winter…..

September – Can’t believe I got through another August without committing first degree murder, it’s such a relief but island still busy and everyone seems nicer (or is it just me?). Clubs are closing, it’s nearly all over and I haven’t done anything of note so time to panic and go on a 10 day drinking binge!

October – The beginning of the end of summer and everyone seems happier. Weather still good so will definitely do some things this month including those jobs. Clocks go back and now it’s dark at 6.30pm – how did that happen, it doesn’t seem like 2 minutes since August.

November – and breathe! But most of the shops & bars are closed and nobody is on the streets. Not sure I like this to be honest, bring back those pale folk in inappropriate clothes, I’m missing them (and their money) already.

December – It’s cold (well 13 degrees) and dark at 6pm. The central heating has been serviced and the firewood has been purchased. The tree has gone up by the fountains and Amazon is getting hammered for Xmas presents. Funds are running low already. Dreaming of summer….

Happy October everyone!

Uber in Ibiza? Only a Matter of Time

The taxi situation in Ibiza is always a major talking point and like all businesses there are good and bad stories from most of us.

One of the biggest problems I encounter in my villa rental business is the taxis unwillingness to go to country villas or to do anything that isn’t straightforward especially if the location is off the beaten track.

I encountered this personally after an August party when I advised my guests to take the 5 minute stroll at the end of the night to the local sports centre and call a taxi, I ended up accompanying them and after calling the Radio Taxi service several times was told that this ‘wasn’t a location in our system’. This is the largest sports complex in San Antonio and next to 3 schools? If this isn’t on their route then what is?

Is it laziness, greed, inefficiency or always taking the easy option and is it any wonder that the ‘pirate’ taxi market and concierge minibus business is booming but then again it would be when that becomes the only option for a large segment of the Ibiza market.

Over the summer when I visited the breathtaking city of Moscow for the World Cup semi final (which I’m still in denial about btw) I was advised by a good friend to download the ‘Gett’ taxi app. This service is similar to Uber and the other technology based taxi services.

Having lived on Ibiza for more years than I care to mention (and therefore living a sheltered life) I hadn’t come across anything quite like it, I know I sound like a small island country bumpkin so please forgive me all you people who use these services on a daily basis in your busy city lives but I was spellbound.

You open the app on your smartphone, digitally hail a cab at an agreeable price then watch on the map as the taxi in the form of a blue dot makes it’s way to you. You have the name and telephone number of the driver, the make and model of the car and it’s licence plate number. When it comes to providing transparent information it doesn’t get any clearer or accountable than that. And here is the best bit – no funds are changed hands as the payment is via pre authorised credit card. You don’t even have to speak to the driver if you don’t want to which isn’t very polite but is always an option.

Let’s compare that to me and my friends standing next to the biggest sports centre in San Antonio at 2am on a busy August morning fruitlessly ringing a taxi service that doesn’t speak their language only to be told (after being on hold for 10 minutes) that the main road we are standing on is ‘not on their route’. It’s like comparing a super computer to an abacus.

Of all the places I have travelled to in the world I have never known a destination more than Ibiza that needs this Uber-type service and flexibility for it’s taxi service.

But as usual the taxi drivers union and the transport companies and the other self serving cartels continue to block any advancements such as this so they can protect their patch of the market whilst the majority of their members cherry pick the jobs they can be bothered to do.

All the while the clients in an Ibiza country villa or a more remote location continue to ring a number in the vain hope that when their call is eventually answered the person on the end of the line can firstly communicate with them and then provide them the courtesy of sending an over priced vehicle to move them safely from A to B.

Uber, Gett and other similar taxi services have revolutionised the way people travel and whether the cartels like it or not it’s only a matter of time until this type of service is available on the White Isle. Ibiza always catches up in the end so let’s hope it’s not too far away but in the meantime keep ringing that number that you scribbled down on a piece of paper and keep taking those Spanish lessons.

4 Old Blokes Promise to Re-build the ‘Ibiza Vibe’

4 old blokes have promised to re-build the old ‘Ibiza Vibe’ in a massive village press conference witnessed by a few passers by and a couple of rags looking to create clicks.

Leader of the group Paul Pox said “when the Ibiza Vibe closed down a few years ago, the island wasn’t the same and even though I said I wouldn’t carry on with any residencies, money talks so I played a few one-offs in a row at the biggest club in the world and have banked enough dollars from gullible punters to be here today to announce that there will be an announcement soon and that the announcement that we can’t announce yet will be a very exciting announcement indeed”.

Ibiza Vibe founder, octogenarian Joe Rose said “we need to spread our roots and share the Ibiza Vibe around the globe because the punters out there want it and if they want it then we need to make money from it”.

Completing the dream team foursome are Johnny Stadium and Davide Marrón who are also really excited about the announcement about the announcement that they can’t announce yet.

As millions put smiley faces on social media, Pox said “Oh yes! This is gonna be amazing”.

Mrs Pepa Ribas from San Rafael said “Pox who?”.

“It’s OK because it’s Ibiza”… or is it?

Today’s blog is a personal view from a friend who is the manager of a luxury hotel on the island.

Most days, if not everyday, I hear my hotel guests say: “it’s OK it’s Ibiza” but “is it ACTUALLY OK because it’s Ibiza?”

Taxis – my guests battle most nights to leave the hotel on time to get to their extremely expensive restaurant reservation. The answer we get from drivers: oh there’s not enough drivers in Ibiza. My point is WHY? My guests response….. “it’s OK it’s Ibiza”

Restaurants – there are some amazing restaurants on the island at reasonable prices but the majority of the ones my guests go to are hugely overpriced. I have heard of one charging 130 euros for a plate of lobster pasta. If this was anywhere else outside of a major city in the world it wouldn’t be acceptable, but hey “it’s OK it’s Ibiza” I hear them say.

Superclubs – it’s been well documented over the summer that some clubs on the island charge 20 euros for a soft drink. How can that be allowed? The party goers this year have finally started waking up, I saw a tweet in August saying ’16 euros for a Fanta, thanks Ibiza!’ But all I hear from my guests is “it’s OK it’s Ibiza”

Hotels – this is my area of knowledge and our pricing is similar to airlines. It’s supply versus demand, what our competitors are doing whilst throwing in the weather forecast but in my opinion the extreme prices such as the month of August makes Ibiza a very expensive place to stay. This is why companies such as Airbnb are becoming more popular, so rather than booking a traditional hotel room people are starting to look for places with character, smart apartments or even staying on moored boats in marinas. Saying all of that I spend a lot of my time in my hotel lobby and upon check in people spend even more money by upgrading to a sea view, or one with a terrace. Upgraded rooms can start with a supplement of up to 200 euros per NIGHT and guess what words get uttered between couples at check in: “it’s OK it’s Ibiza”.

However recent reports are showing a slowdown in the number of visitors to island year on year. Why? In my view there are many reasons such as other destinations becoming more popular again, global weather is becoming better (just look at the UK this summer – over 30 days of temperatures similar to Ibiza) but the one major reason IMO is that the island in some parts is becoming almost inaccessible to the ‘normal’ person.

I acknowledge that the top end of travel is booming on the island. For example large villa rentals and the super car hire companies have reported a 10% growth year in year but this is niche market. I spoke to one private bodyguard who says he is turning away work as he is so busy and the expensive restaurants are still packed but the genuine rich and famous don’t worry about money…. or do they?

So is it really “OK because it’s Ibiza” or is it time for the authorities to take a long hard look at itself and start re-evaluating whether this amazing island is sustainable for the future or will it just be a playground for the rich and famous in August while conveniently forgetting it’s original roots as an affordable holiday destination for all?

The verdict is still pending…..