Ibiza House Prices Surge

Ibiza House Prices Surge

Good news for home owners on the White Isle but bad news for those desperate to get on the ladder. A new report by urbanData Analytics (uDA) reveals that property prices in Ibiza are now 3 times higher than the national average and almost double than the rest of the Balearic Islands.

The study, based on properties registered in the last quarter of 2018, revealed that the average price in Ibiza was 4616 EUR per square metre compared to 2683 EUR for the Balearic Islands and 1679 EUR for the whole of Spain.

The municipality of Ibiza Town has the highest price of 5218 EUR per square metre followed by Sant Joan with 5058 EUR and Santa Eulalia at 4515 EUR.  Sant Josep’s average is 4399 EUR and San Antonio’s is 3892 EUR per square metre.

In Mallorca, the municipality of Calvia has the highest value at 3462 EUR per square metre followed by Andratx at 3351 EUR.  The average price of Palma is estimated at 2596 EUR per square metre.

The statistics highlight that the housing problem in Ibiza is much more serious than in the rest of the Balearic Islands.

The uDA report also shows the increase in Balearic house prices in 2018 when comparing first quarter to last quarter. Palma grew by 7.7%, Calvia by 6.1% and Ibiza by a massive 16.7%.

The analysis also revealed the big difference to owning your own home depending on the municipality in which you choose to live. For example, to own a residence in Calvià it will cost you 13.6 years of average gross household income, this decreases to 8.9 years for Palma, 6.1 years in Manacor and 4.7 in Inca. The Balearic average is 10.9 years of gross income but in Ibiza this increases to 15 years. 

For 2019 the Balearics is expected to grow another 10% in value whereas the national average is forecast to be 3.7%

The rising house prices in some Balearic municipalities also means the product is less attractive as an investment as it is increasingly difficult to obtain a significant return if it goes to the rental market. Interestingly for rentals the report states that for Inca in Mallorca you can expect a 6.1% annual return yet in Ibiza this drops to only 3.9%.

This forecast, however, is not shared by everyone including the representatives of the real estate sector in the islands. Luis Martin, The president of the association of promoters argues that “customers are fed up” with the prices of the archipelago which is causing a decline in demand. The president of the real estate agents’ association, José María Mir, also considers that rental prices are peaking.

Martin expects that the price of housing in sales will grow, at best, by around 5%, while Mir predicts that rents will stand still or rise by 2% at best.

Source: Diario de Ibiza

Ibiza to Switzerland: The Yin and Yang of Tourism

Fun on the white stuff in Verbier!

I’m back on the White Isle after another fantastic ski week in Switzerland. Last year it was the German speaking Zermatt so this time 5 friends and I decided to sample Verbier on the French side.  What’s always interesting when I’m visiting new places is to see how they react to tourism, how they treat tourists and how tourism interacts with their way of life. Ultimately I then compare it back to Ibiza where the resident/tourist conundrum has been a fraught relationship lately.

Every destination has its pro’s and con’s and Switzerland is one of those calm places where everything works. Trains run on time, hot water comes out of the hot tap and nobody seems overly phased by anything (which isn’t surprising with a minimum wage of around 3000 EUR per month). It’s a mature destination comfortable in its own skin that understands it’s role in the tourism deal. They provide a good, professional service and in return the customer pays a premium, it’s not cheap but it’s not obscenely expensive either, although there is that option for the wealthy and the blingtastic wannabes.

What’s interesting about Verbier is that many tourists stay in private rental apartments (a concept that is outlawed in the Balearics), there’s a smattering of hotels such as the luxurious W Hotel but most people that I spoke to were staying, like us, in a private apartment either through an agent or a website such as airbnb or booking.com.  We paid £2500 for 1 week, so for 6 of us it was a little over £400 per person, a very reasonable price for one of Europe’s premier ski resorts.  The quality was OK and it ticked all the boxes without being luxury, you get what you pay for at the end of the day.

The resort town of Verbier itself is charming, the lift system is good linking the 4 valleys, skiing is as challenging as you want it to be with a good selection of runs and amazing vistas. I would strongly recommend taking the cable car up to the top of Mont Fort, where at 3330m above sea level you get the sensational alpine view of the iconic Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, a worthwhile selfie if ever there was one. Skiing back down the steep, bumpy black afterwards is not for the faint hearted so you may decide to go back the way you came. The mountain restaurants we tried (Dahu, Chez Dany, Namaste) were excellent without being mind-blowing (Chez Vrony in Zermatt will take some beating).

The ‘Après’ in Le Rouge, T-Bar and Farinet was fun if a little subdued compared to other resorts (St Anton, Saalbach) with a surprising amount of Brits (including the usual Tarquins and Henriettas using Daddy’s credit card) mingling in with the locals and seasonnaires.  The overriding atmosphere was of a comfortable, laid back resort with nice people enjoying a well earned break.

So how do other destinations such as Switzerland reconcile themselves with tourism yet Ibiza and Mallorca seem to struggle?  I omit the other Balearic Islands on purpose, in fact Formentera and Switzerland could be twins in opposites seasons and Menorca doesn’t seem to worry too much either way.

What Switzerland and other destinations seem to have that the Balearics doesn’t is an acceptance that tourism brings compromise yet they set clear rules so lives aren’t ruined and everyone is expected to follow the law. They aren’t selling their soul, they are embracing the concept and running with it.

Ibiza and Mallorca have shown over the last couple of years that there is an unresolved, perpetual, internal battle with tourism. We want the money and prosperity that it brings but we aren’t able to cope with the complications that inevitable come with it, even if it’s only for half of the year. Some residents, fueled by social media, aren’t prepared to compromise even when most local employment revolves around tourism. We want only a certain ‘type’ of tourism even if we don’t have the infrastructure to support it. Lamentably tourism now seems to be the fall guy for some Spanish resorts that wouldn’t exist without it.

There’s no magic formula though, I’m sure the Swiss are attracted to Ibiza because it’s nothing like their country and vice versa. Switzerland excels in relaxation and wellness whereas Ibiza leads the world in pure hedonism but the Balearics can learn a lot from places like Switzerland. Both are steeped in natural beauty and attract a cosmopolitan crowd with spending power but mismanagement at the highest level means that as beautiful as our Islands are, we are still not reaching the heights that we truly deserve.

A Long Week for the San Antonio Coalition

Alcaraz attending court flanked by political colleagues

“A week is a long time in politics – this phrase is attributed to former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Due to the fast changing pace of the political landscape, the fortunes of a politician or political group can change drastically just in the course of a single week and this is very true when you look at the goings on at San Antonio town hall over the last 7 days.

For those who find Ibiza local politics confusing or unintelligible let me try and break it down in a simple and (hopefully) balanced way.

First let’s start with Aida Alcaraz from the socialist PSOE party who is the current councillor for town security, responsible for police and trying to tackle crime on the streets of San Antonio.

Upon assuming office in June 2015 Sra Alcaraz installed Angeles Gallardo as ‘head of security’ at the local police force to try and shake things up. Sra Gallardo took over the day to day running of the local police, using the police chiefs office to do so. Javier Verdugo, the chief of police then accused Sra Alcaraz of undermining him and took her to court claiming workplace harassment saying he was frozen out of important meetings and wasn’t invited to special events.

Sr Verdugo won the subsequent court case and now Aida Alcaraz has personally been charged with the crime under employment law with prosecutors seeking a year in prison, although even if she was found guilty she wouldn’t serve any time under Spain’s complicated legal system.

The current PSOE code of ethics states that if a councillor is charged with a crime then they must resign immediately and fight to clear their name.  Aida Alcaraz has refused to resign and has been strongly supported by her coalition council colleagues and her political party at Balearic level who argue that the resignation rule refers to corruption whereas this case is a straightforward power struggle between a police chief stuck in his ways and a councillor wanting to shake things up to achieve results. The court case continues and Sra Alcaraz has stated that she will not run for council in the next elections.

Cristina Ribas with Mayor Josep Tur

Now let’s turn to Cristiana Ribas who was elected as a councillor representing the ‘Propesta per las Illes’ (PI) party.

Spanish municipal elections use a proportional representational model, the electorate vote for a specific party who put forward a list of names, 21 names in the case of San Antonio. The votes are counted and then if you have enough votes you assume a seat on the council.

In 2015 (in which I ran as PP councillor) the right wing PP won 8 seats, the socialist PSOE won 6 seats and the left wing Reinicia party surprised a lot of people and won 4 seats. In San Antonio you require a majority of 11 seats to assume control of the council.

The centre right PI party won 3 seats in 2015 thus becoming the power broker and it was down to them to decide which coalition would run San Antonio town hall for the next 4 years. Their historic animosity with the PP party saw them choose to join forces with PSOE/Reinicia forming San Antonio’s first ever 3-way coalition government.

Last week the hard-working Cristina Ribas announced that after a lot of soul-searching she had decided to leave the PI party and become an independent councillor staying within the government team to complete the full term but because she was voted for as a PI party candidate this has caused a dilemma. The San Antonio coalition was a signed pact based on 13 unified councillors from 3 different unified parties.

The PI party has now given the Mayor until the end of January to resolve the impasse saying that as Sra Ribas isn’t a member of the party that was voted into office then she should resign so they can install another one of their members on to the council.

San Antonio Mayor Jose Tur Cires has hit back in the press saying “he doesn’t respond well to threats” and it doesn’t make sense to install a new councillor with only 4 months to go before elections.

Adding fuel to the fire is the pact that exists between all parties (which is delightfully called ‘anti-transfuguismo’) not allowing council members to join other parties whilst sitting on the council. Ribas insists that she will remain independent although it has been reported that she has been offered a place on the PSOE list for the May elections.

There are no winners in this story but it’s a good snapshot of what’s been happening over the last week and today’s monthly council meeting promises to be a tasty affair with the opposition poised to jump on all the negative headlines.

Press Headlines for all the wrong reasons

The Balearic Brexit Affect

In 2017 the Balearic Islands received nearly 20 million visitors through its airports of which 4.4 million were from the United Kingdom, its 2nd biggest market. When you break it down the numbers for the islands were as follows.

screenshot 2019-01-21 at 19.08.35

As you can see, almost 1 in 4 people who come to the Balearics are British so anything that affects the UK will, inevitably, have a knock on affect.

So it’s safe to say that the Spanish are more than a little perturbed about Brexit and the implications for the future and more specifically this coming summer. Like most things to do with Brexit nobody really knows what will happen so the continuing uncertainty only fuels the fear.

The Balearics are so concerned about Brexit that they have organised an emergency conference in Mallorca for the beginning of February to discuss all possibilities, they don’t want to leave anything to chance and this signifies how seriously they value the British market and it’s importance to their economy.

In the short term the major problem is the exchange rate fluctuations between the euro and pound. As the pound gets weaker, British tourists will have less money in their pockets so less money to spend. This is also why other destinations such as Turkey, Croatia and Egypt are increasingly more attractive to those on a specific budget. Ibiza isn’t the cheapest of destinations so these little things can have big ramifications.

Even with the continuing dithering the good news is that holidays are sacrosanct to the British nation, carved into an unwritten constitution under ‘thou shall travel’ and Brits are truly great travellers, forever plotting and planning their trips away. One difference that Brexit may bring is the amount of times they travel per year so that sneaky late September trip to the White Isle could be temporarily put on ice.

On the flip side the ex-pat community in Spain are stuck in a bit of limbo until Brexit has been fully resolved. Healthcare, pensions and workers rights are all important issues but these can only be confirmed after Brexit and a no-deal would mean that they are left hanging in the air for an extended period which creates a short term vacuum that many aren’t prepared to risk. Many Brits have already upped sticks from Spain and returned home where their rights are more ring-fenced.

Whether you are a brexiteer or a remainer the continuing political impasse isn’t good but the most important thing to remember is that with over 17,000,000 Brits visiting Spain every year there is plenty of goodwill on both sides to continue the special relationship. This was clearly shown yesterday /21/01/2019) when the 2 countries announced a reciprocal voting agreement which means that Brits living in Spain will definitely have the right to vote in the forthcoming municipal elections on 26 May 2019. This is the first of many agreements that will be made in the coming months and years.

Simon Manley, the British Ambassador to Spain, has been working tirelessly on a big PR exercise popping up up all over Spain and on Spanish TV with words of reassurance stressing that although the UK will be leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019 it still very much values it’s geographical place in the heart of the Europe.

As ever with the Anglo-Spanish relationship there is always a sizeable elephant in the corner of the room in the shape of Gibraltar which could still become a major stumbling block even though the Gibraltarians have consistently voted for their independence under the union flag. Brexit gives Spain a chance to renegotiate their position which has strengthened since the UK referendum.

Amongst all the doomsday predictions and the brexiteer over confidence lies the way forward but come 29 March you can be sure that life will go on with possibly a few disruptions but planes will definitely not be falling out of the skies (remember the millennium bug?).

It’s business as usual for Ibiza and the Balearics safe in the knowledge that we have a desirable product but we can use Brexit as a reminder that we have to work harder to attract all nationalities and not over rely on any one market. Even though Brexit creates uncertainty the British tourist will always be an important player in the Ibiza and Balearic game.

2019 – a BIG Year for the White Isle

Happy New Year! Now that the extended Christmas holidays are over it’s time to get back to work and focus on the year ahead. We’ve said goodbye to 2018 and it’s now time to embrace 2019.

Every year is a big year for Ibiza but 2019 has an extra edge to it. Local elections that will define the next 4 years, the continuing Brexit debacle, a local residents uprising, a lurch towards polarising politics, a new right wing Spanish party, increased competition from other tourist destinations, an unpopular hotel ecotax. I could name a few more but I’m not here to focus on the negatives, not today anyway.

The Island runs in cycles and there’s no doubting that Ibiza has got itself into a bit of a pickle. A catch 22 situation that requires a long term plan but the local political parties prefer to play petty games with each other, agreeing on nothing and accomplishing very little (but more about that in a forthcoming post).

More importantly, what can be lost in the fog of all the hyperbole and the local political point scoring is just how fantastic Ibiza is as a tourist destination. I’ve just spent 3 weeks travelling around south east Asia and it feels so good to get back, One of the bonuses of getting away is the appreciation of what you have back at home and I can safely say there’s simply no other place on the planet like Ibiza.

We sometimes forget exactly what we have here on the island and more importantly the basic requirements for tourists to come and enjoy the islands in the best way possible. Eating fine foods, taking in the incredible nature, immersing in local traditions, hedonistic pursuits if that’s your pleasure, the best nightlife in the world, swimming in clear blue water or simply lying on a white sandy beach with a takeaway sandwich and a good book. The beauty of Ibiza is and has always been that there’s something for everyone.

Some, of course, will tell you that Ibiza is now only for millionaires and that you have to win the lottery to be able to enjoy the island. There’s no doubting that Ibiza is constantly evolving but thats one of the beauties of the place. I still find the ‘rich only’ notion amusing as I tuck into my sumptuous 9 euro menu of the day then take a long walk on the Cala Conta coastal path to work off the 3 courses and a bottle of wine, stopping for a 1 euro caña on the way back. The best things in life don’t have to cost the earth in this neck of the woods (and I’m not talking about a magnum of grey goose and a pretentious beach club).

Those that know the island also know that you can live like a prince on a paupers wage but you have to be clever and do some homework and I mean real homework, not just follow the Daily Mail or Guardian sponsored travel sections. Look at online forums, ask direct questions, get busy on social media and forge your own path around the island without becoming a sheep with deep pockets. Leave that to the August glory hunters (whose wallets are always welcome by the way).

If you have the notion in your head that you ‘love Ibiza’ and I mean really love Ibiza then in 2019 I challenge you to come over in the low season and discover the real island. Get a cheap flight, stay in a local hotel, go out and meet people, eat inexpensive delicious food, take a walk around the old town or on an empty beach and absorb that special Ibiza vibe that dissipates substantially for a few months over peak summer when everything gets lost in a haze of frenetic greed. Forget what you think you know or what you read in the tabloid, 2019 is the year to see Ibiza in a different light.

I guarantee that the Ibiza you will find is a special place unrivalled in the world and everything you want it to be. It’s there right in front of you, you just have to scratch the surface a little.

You can thank me later!

The Balearics “Rejection of Tourism” Continues

Tourism has made the Balearic islands and many of it’s native inhabitants rich beyond their wildest dreams but the anti-tourism philosophy and the relentless quest for negative publicity that has been endemic over the last few years shows no sign of stopping.

This weeks addition to the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ list is the news that the Formentera government is pushing forward a new law that may leave you scratching your head in bewilderment.

This beautiful island is the jewel in the Balearic crown and with no airport relies solely on boats to bring tourists to it’s door yet a new maritime law will ban day cruise boats from docking at the only port in La Savina.

Now let that sink in for a minute (pun intended). A tourist island that’s only accessible by boat but doesn’t want day cruises to go there. It doesn’t want to cut back, limit or renegotiate it wants a total ban. No wonder the outside world is perplexed to what the Balearic Islands actually do want.

The new law won’t affect the larger ferry companies such as Balearia and Trasmapi who service the island on a daily basis throughout the year but will affect the 8 pleasure boat companies specialising in day cruises who are hopping mad as the new law will virtually kill off part or most of their business overnight. This week they have been remonstrating strongly with local politicians including Pepa Mari, who’s in charge of transport and mobility at Ibiza’s Island council.

The boat companies claim that the new measures ‘will reduce the quality and diversification’ that Ibiza offers to tourists by depriving them of the possibility of visiting Formentera directly from areas, such as the Marina Botafoch, Playa d’en Bossa, San Antonio and Santa Eulalia.

They have also reiterated that the new decree ‘is an attack on the freedom of business, equity and justice’ saying that 200 jobs could be in serious danger. The boat companies also point out that Formentera companies can still continue to offer day trips to Ibiza so the new law is discriminatory and literally one-way traffic.

The CEO of Mallorca based Meliá Hotels, Gabriel Escarrer, has also waded into the debate saying that the current perception that the Balearic Islands has too many tourists is so widespread that tour operators have asked him if the Balearic Islands ‘wants to commit suicide’ because they do not understand how the islands can adopt so many measures that harm competitiveness whilst at the same time sending out messages that generate uncertainty and transmit a rejection of tourism’.

Meanwhile the local press are reporting that Turkey and Egypt are seeing a 30% increase in demand whilst the Balearic Islands had a near 300,000 drop in British and German visitors in 2018 compared to the previous year. It doesn’t take a rocket science to decipher these numbers, a little common sense can see that people are deserting the Balearics in search of cheaper destinations that value tourism.

Welcome to the Balearics where we only want a certain type of tourist and if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to pass the means test you will be required to pay an extra tax on arrival at your all inclusive hotel which will soon not be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks and by the way don’t even think about that day trip to Formentera!

Vote 2019 – The Only Ibiza Voice You Have

This isn’t a begging letter, it’s a wake up call. For those who like to avoid these things because it’s ‘not your thing’ or you don’t want to ‘get involved’ it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

I’m going to be honest with you, as a foreigner in Ibiza we’re a 2nd class citizen, the authorities will tell you otherwise but that’s the plain truth. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s always been but it’s OK because there’s plenty of us in it together.

But here’s the good news, voting in the local municipal elections is your ONLY way to make a real difference in Ibiza. Your democratic right as a citizen of your municipality means that you have the choice of who to vote for, who leads your local council.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, that’s a deeply personal decision, I may campaign at a later date for a political party but my passion is to see British & other foreigners at the polling station come Election Day in May 2019, making a difference.

The British in Ibiza are a strange bunch, I know I’m one of them. We’re not terribly keen to ‘get involved’ hoping that others will sort the problems for us. Most Brits don’t even speak the local language very well, a problem when your mother tongue is the worlds language and you can get by without it, although this is no excuse.

Other foreign communities on the island such as the the Rumanians understand the power of the vote and get organised, negotiating with parties and block voting. Clever people those Rumanians.

But let me be clear. As an immigrant It’s all we’ve got.

We can’t vote in the Spanish general election. We can’t vote for the island council. We can only vote in the municipal elections. 1 paltry vote but what a vote it is! The power to help decide who runs your local council and who makes the big decisions that you have to live with on a daily basis.

To me it’s quite a simple analogy. If you don’t vote you forfeit your right to complain. You forfeit your right to have a voice. You’re invisible.

It’s such a simple procedure too. As long as you have a residency card and are registered at your town hall, all you have to do is walk in and fill out a form. Takes less than 5 minutes to do it but it can make a world of difference and the politicians know it.

Nobody knows what will happen in the 2019 municipal elections, history hasn’t been written yet but one thing for sure is that the silent majority will decide as they always do. The silent majority are those who register to vote and make an informed decision but don’t shout about it. These are the ones who make the big difference, just make sure you’re one of them

European citizens have until 30 January 2019 to register to vote at their local town hall. To be able to vote you must have a green residency certificate plus be ’empadronado’.