Conta SHOCKER

 

The news that everybody dreaded but was probably inevitable came yesterday with confirmation that the UK’s 2nd richest businessmen David and Simon Reuben have purchased 3 miles of prime beachfront land in the Port des Torrent-Cala Bassa-Cala Conta area for around £25m (less than the price of a Mayfair townhouse!). 

Press reports state that they plan to develop the land even though the existing license has expired. This news has been met with universal horror on the island with many shocked at the prospect of this unspoiled land being converted into a concrete jungle full of even more so-called VIPs (if that’s possible).

Private equity vultures have been rumoured to be circling for a while in many parts of the island especially since Ibiza has succumbed to the VIP culture in recent years which has proven a massive market for Ushuaia, Hard Rock Hotel, Blue Marlin, Lio and Pacha to name but a few. New addition ‘Heart Ibiza’ has recently opened, this joint venture by world renowned chef Ferran Adria and Cirque du Soleil promises to crank up the top end even further. You just have to walk around the Ibiza Nueva marina next to Lio to see the money coming into the island. A Stella McCartney boutique nestles next to the Superyachts with elderly owners and leggy east European blondes which adorn all the moorings, forget San Tropez and Monte Carlo, there’s only 1 place the super rich want to be over the summer

Taking all this into account it’s should come as no surprise that there are people ready to cash in. The existing controversial property development promoted by Rafa Nadal near to Cala Conta is an example of the demand for luxury housing in gated communities. These easily fetched prices of 1 to 5 million euros which makes the reported £25M price paid by the Reuben Brothers look like a bargain

Those of us on the island and the millions of Ibiza lovers worldwide can only hope that Sant Josep council remain strong and only allow development in existing areas and steadfastly protect the green belt and coastal land that is cherished by so many but this council has had a chequered history in this respect and strange decisions can be made especially when huge sums of money are involved.

Go WEST! 

  WEST END WEEK – DAY 1

The municipality of Sant Antoni de Portmany is 129 km2, has a population in excess of 20,000 and stretches from the beaches of Cala Gracio and Cala Salada to the beautiful countryside of San Mateu and Santa Ines yet an area which takes up only 0.0001% and is 150 metres long and barely 3 streets across dominates everyone’s perception and opinion of the town. These 2 words and 7 letters is a topic that divides opinion, creates heated debate and represents where San Antonio came from and is indicative of where it’s going.

Step forward San Antonio’s famous “WEST END”

Love it or loathe it the West End is here to stay so why does this tiny area cloud so many peoples judgement of the whole town? Mention San Antonio to many and their eyes will roll and their heads will shake (especially those that haven’t actually been there) and right in the middle of their pre conceived ideas is the West End – a polarizing force in a town that everybody loves to hate.

The West End of 2015 is its own eco system and micro economy and is representative of whether the town is ‘doing well’. There used to be fine restaurants but now it’s mainly bars and fast food outlets, a sugar rush for adrenaline/red bull junkies who like to party the night away for relatively little money – if you’re on a tight budget then this is the place for you hence why San Antonio is many young people’s first holiday abroad. ‘Free entry’ say the signs to the bars and pubs who also advertise cheap drink offers such as ‘3 beers and 3 shots for €10’. The problem is that if you set your stall out to capture this end of the market then its tough to reinvent yourself at a later date. This price-driven environment means that in tough times some bars just reduce the price or even give it away for free – some call it a loss leader others might call it commercial suicide.

Throw in a cocktail of looky looky men, women of ill-repute, the odd petty thief and 24 hour ‘bodegas’ selling even cheaper booze and it all adds up to an interesting mix with never a dull moment. It’s usually quite safe and an excellent place to people watch. Keep your wits about you and enjoy but if you are too worse for wear and wander off the beaten track then it can also be a dangerous place but you could say that about anywhere in the western world if you are too drunk to talk and can’t even remember your own name. 

I spent lots of nights down the West End in my younger years so it played a very important part in my Ibiza upbringing hence why I always defend it and bristle when summer journalists use it for ink-bait but we also have to recognize that most places in Ibiza have moved onwards and upwards yet the West seems to mainly stand still with more bars opening every year offering cheaper drinks to less people because of increased competition from Ushuaia, Ocean Beach, Hard Rock, Sankeys and Space to name but a few. 

To those who criticize a simple ‘well don’t go there’ retort usually shuts them up however it is an integral part of San Antonio tourism but how much longer can it survive in its present format? Pep Cires, the new Mayor, has promised to change San Antonio’s ‘tourism model’ and no prizes for guessing where he was looking towards when he made that statement. Reinvention is an overused word yet seems valid in this case. How is it that the very same people who drink champagne at Ocean Beach and proudly post pics on Facebook then stroll down the West End looking for the cheapest offers? Once again it comes back to the environment created.

Some owners/managers are trying to change things but others appear stuck in a time-warp with little investment and craving to fill their bars just to upset their competitors no matter what the cost. The West End is no different to any other market and natural selection ensures that the best bars will always be busy and those who don’t offer anything different just shrivel up and die until it re-opens with another eager tenant paying an expensive rent. 

Most towns have their own version (Newcastle’s Bigg Market or Dublin’s Temple Bar) however these places are positively policed with customer enjoyment paramount. Wouldn’t it be great if we could create this type of environment for San Antonio but very little police presence has ensured an other-worldly feel to the place, 2015 has seen a private security firm being contracted to raise visibility, this can only be a positive but appears an expensive short term solution to a long term problem. 

Whether we like it or not the West End is San Antonio and San Antonio is the West End so we all need to take an interest for the good of our town. IMO the key ingredient is quality over quantity and a range of diverse products to entice a broader cross section of people. Any product has to evolve, learn from its mistakes and get better at what it does. San Antonio has the best range of nocturnal activities on the island but it also needs to love itself a little more and take pride in its offerings. As we have seen with the rise of the beach clubs and VIP culture, money isn’t the driving factor anymore, on the white isle its all about what’s on offer. 

Of course this is very easy for me to say and this blog raises more questions that answers but if we never start then we will never finish. A quick paint job isn’t good enough anymore and as other venues & resorts have proved, invest in it, build it and they will come. 

And the NEW IBIZA is……..

 As it comes to silly season for the UK press some mid 30s journalists sitting at their Apple Mac computers in their Primrose Hill townhouses have made an amazing discovery: Apparently there is a new destination that is going to give the white isle a serious run for its money this summer. This place is a small island in the med boasting glorious sunshine for most of the year and will amaze all who arrive there especially those with a sense of adventure. It’s not Mykonos or Croatia or Santorini or even Las Vegas but a gem that is definitely worth your consideration.Stay away from the usual tourist traps and the people are friendly with an easygoing and tolerant attitude and there’s lots of different things to do when you get there. There’s also a strong rumour that Jade Jagger and her west London friends holiday there and we all know how important that is to the hacks who don’t leave their living room whilst pontificating about holiday destinations they know very little or absolutely nothing about.

Initially it might appear expensive but scratch the surface and there is a whole different world that costs very little if you are willing to look a little harder and not follow the crowd. The nature is simply spectacular with beautiful countryside and crystal clear blue waters but before I tell you I want you to close your eyes and imagine a paradise where you can be yourself, relax, let off steam in amazing surroundings, eat delicious local food and wines and mix with respectful locals who won’t judge you (no, I said its not Mykonos!) 

Get ready because the new Ibiza is……Ibiza. Beware of expensive imitations because there’s only one – it’s a unique island with something for everyone so don’t believe everything you read in the press.

Surprised? Well maybe you just didn’t look hard enough.

‘Ibiza Winter Residents’: You couldn’t make it up!

  When Facebook was just a glint in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye could he have ever imagined the unstoppable train that he would unleash on the world for those wanting to share, to get things off their chest, those with a particular axe to grind and those with nothing better to do than surf social media all day whilst basking in the sun (that would be me then). Of all the social media groups and forums that I have joined and participated in, one is simply head and shoulders above the rest.

On a small island in a smallish sea there is a Facebook group called ‘Ibiza Winter Residents’ and I ask you, neigh beg you, to join it with the utmost urgency and become immersed in the weird and wonderful world of the Ibiza native: Those who love to share strange experiences, those who care more for animals than humans, no post is too sensitive for offensive remarks and those who can turn any gentle conversation into a slanging match. This group ensures that the term ‘pointless Ibiza question’ is now extinct. 

IWR has replaced the supermarket cafe with regards to recommendations, hearsay, conjecture, rumours and downright lies. Don’t take it too seriously and you will be amazed at the hourly posts and comments and I challenge you not to be doubled up with laughter on a daily basis. A word of caution though: Take this group too seriously and throw in a few bad comments about animals (especially cats) and you will have sworn enemies for life and an Ibiza Fatwa put on your head. 

Group admin Brian Beezwax told me “My friends were always asking for advice on how to do this or where to find that so a few years ago I decided to start writing it down in Ibiza Winter Residents whenever I had a little bit of success with Ibiza red tape, to give me something to refer to if I had to do the same thing again or if someone else asked. Thankfully it eventually started to catch on and other people started to share their experiences and advice too. Now in the space of a year the group has swelled from less than 3000 people to over 18,000 and we appear to have created a monster!”

Brian continues “There are lots of very different tribes on this island and Ibiza Winter Residents is one of the very few public spaces that they have to share. The odd verbal scrap is inevitable but most people seem to be able to look after themselves – at the end of the day it’s just words on a screen! Some people seem to think that the group should be heavily moderated like most forums on the internet but I’m adamant that it should remain lawless as it is – I think it’s important that there is a place where people are free to say whatever they like…….”

IWR reaches its target audience immediately (you’re probably reading this link now through it) and can be a fantastic source of information and a fact sharing site which can be very important on a small island but also no subject is too trivial and no comment is too gentle for it not to be misinterpreted by a diverse Ibiza population of different nationalities, backgrounds, languages and from contrasting social spheres. The group could almost have the sub heading ‘Lost in Translation’. 

Certain issues are no-go areas (cats again!) unless you are a true masochist and God forbid you suggest that the bus timetable in Santa Gertrudis isn’t good enough as this will unleash a tirade of ‘get back to your own country’ and ‘this isn’t London! ‘ type comments. I have even started using “IWR’s” as a collective term to describe a specific Ibiza demographic. 

Only Ibiza could give birth to this group and although some posts are cringeworthy and slightly mad it’s a fantastic medium for sharing first-person opinions and recommendations. I applaud it as a celebration of the islands dysfunctionality, and the strange thing is that I’m almost addicted to it so to all you IWR’s out there please keep on posting, ranting, swearing, informing, criticizing, praising, threatening, recommending, belittling, laughing and most of all championing our Island as I, for one, simply can’t get enough. MM

The BOSSA FACTOR

  When I first arrived in Ibiza in 1991 (as a clueless holiday rep) the island dynamic was very straight forward. Youngsters went to San Antonio, families went to Playa d’en Bossa/Es Cana, and couples/seniors went to Santa Eulalia. I’m generalizing but you get the idea.

Playa d’en Bossa (or just plain Bossa) was predominantly a family resort but did have THE club in Space which opened at 6am and went straight through until the evening. Space opened its doors in 1989 and quickly gained an ‘anything goes’ reputation with the open air terrace being the place to be on a Sunday for sun, drinks, drugs and the best music in the world.

The families directly across the road in the hotels Bahamas and Don Toni were all a bit bewildered but Ibiza is nothing if not tolerant. Bossa continued developing at a rapid rate until 2011 when the Fiesta group got into bed with the Ushuaia beach bar and turned one of their family friendly ‘Fiesta-land’ hotels into the Ushuaia Beach Hotel, something that is commonly known as a GAME-CHANGER. Ushuaia Tower quickly followed and then with the 2014 addition of the Hard Rock Hotel (the only HR hotel outside of North America) the transformation was complete: quiet family resort to full on party paradise in less than a generation. 

For me it’s been hard watching the rise and rise of Bossa whilst San Antonio has remained more or less the same but now with the added influx of seasonal ‘workers’ (but that’s another story which I will blog about later this week). 

To compare the 2 places is difficult: San Antonio is an urban nucleus with it’s magnificent bay and natural harbour but has fallen down the party pecking order through lack of investment and 2 ‘super’ clubs that appear to care about everything apart from client enjoyment. Bossa is a purpose made tourist resort that now has top notch bars and restaurants along its mile long beach and the world class venues previously mentioned.

Although it’s billed as a mini Las Vegas any night in Bossa will also confirm your worst fears. A claustrophobic environment with hawkers and pushy PRs on every street corner. Of course we have some of the same issues on the west coast yet Bossa NEVER gets the bad publicity that San Antonio does, it would appear that memories are short as long as you have a few world class venues on your doorstep. 

So as Ibiza enters a new political era with elected socialist leaders in San Jose (Bossa’s municipality), San Antonio and also the island government it will be interesting to see if there are any major plans for Ibiza’s two biggest party resorts especially as San Antonio’s new Mayor Pep Tur ‘Cires’ has ‘promised’ a change of direction for San An tourism, this will be very interesting to watch.

Also it’s worth mentioning that Vicent Torres the probable next Island President was a former tourist minister for the Balearics and was the man who signed the Ryanair winter flights agreement back in 2007. 

Fiesta group led by billionaire Abel Matutes continues to push for more changes in Bossa and has also unveiled plans to invest €40M in the hotel Tanit at Cala Gracio making it a ‘mini Ushuaia’ which will include a beach club, will this be the touch paper that San Antonio needs to reclaim its historical place as the entry level Ibiza resort for all 18-25 year olds? Like most tourist destinations Ibiza needs needs to continually evolve especially with regards to quality so we can compete with the emerging gateways and for this to happen we require our tourism leaders to be strong, innovative and creative not just stick their heads in the sand and expect Ibiza to continually ride on the crest of a wave. MM

Ibiza Clubbing: Why June ain’t wot it used to be  – Guest Blog by Kirk Field

  Following on from my post about the Challenge of June for Ibiza Business, here is Kirk Field (writing exclusively for my blog) with his unique take on Ibiza Clubbing in June and the emerging festivals and destinations who are snatching ‘our’ talent (!). 

Kirk: From visiting Ibiza since 1990 as a journalist for Mixmag, I realised that June was the perfect time in the calendar to run large group events. The weather was fantastic, flights abundant and cheap, hotel owners welcoming with hotel beds at decent prices and more importantly, the superclubs weren’t road-blocked, meaning they’d do business; give my promoters slots and deliver fair group ticket deals.

For the first ten years all was good. Numbers growing year on year at my opening parties week package ‘Ibizan Heat’ (many years ago, a respected promoter at Space once emailed me as he did his listings, “My spell check says there’s no such word as Ibizan”. Well I’m not changing it to ‘Ibicenco Heat’, I replied. Years later on noticing ‘The Ibiza Sun’ had re-launched as ‘The Ibizan’, I sent him a copy!)

Success always breeds imitation, and often that imitation is pale. The clubbing travel market is no exception. In this case it means selling a package which is centered around one hotel (effectively ‘all-inclusive’), meaning the 400 students rarely leave the hotel, as it caters for their every need; daily pool parties, concerts at night…even their own boat party. Whilst this is a smart move on the part of the hotel, it doesn’t help a myriad of small businesses or venues who would normally benefit from their presence.

Coupled with the pre-determined itinerary clubbing packages include, it means that recent years have witnessed a noticeable absence from ‘walk up’ customers at superclubs in June.

However that in itself doesn’t explain why some superclubs have been quieter than expected in recent early seasons. The answer lies across the pond…

The rise of EDM in America has led to Ibiza being displaced as the preferred booking for DJ’s. There’s a saying that goes, ‘every cloud may have a silver lining, but every star has an agent’. And agents will go where the money is. And for the last few years, that money has been not Euro’s but Dollars…and lots of them.

Despite an anticipated increase of Americans (prepare for loud voices complaining about the service in beachside restaurants), the U.S’s belated discovery of dance music has not all been good news for Ibiza…

In the next seven days, at least 4 major festivals –  FireflyElectric DaisySummerfest and Paradiso – all take place in the States. Each one bursting at the seams with a stellar line ups. Take a look at the party calendar on Ibiza Spotlight for next week; no Steve Aoki or Ferry Corsten…at their own parties. A similar thing happened at times last year with Carl Cox and David Guetta. Meanwhile over at mighty Ushuaia, flagship Swedish residency ‘Departures’ is absent from its traditional opening shindig on the last Wednesday in June…coincidence or proof that la Isla Blanca isn’t Numero Uno any longer in the DJ’s schedules?

It’s not just the weakened line-ups which are affecting informed clubbers from booking in June. The resulting delay in announcing line ups is, I believe, a major factor in June’s reduced appeal for discerning clubbers. Each year the line up confirmations get later and later, now nothing is signed until after WMC in late March at the very earliest. At the same time flight prices rise and rise…as they become fewer; snapped up by musically less discerning visitors; typically hen and stag parties many of whom have never heard of Darius Syrossian or Seth Troxler.

At time of writing, one of the club nights for my group next week has still not announced its line up…less than 6 days away, while another one major night was only confirmed in the last ten days. This isn’t because the promoters in question are lazy or incompetent; on the contrary, both work to a high standard and have been bending over backwards to get the talent confirmed, but I understand have struggled because of Ibiza falling down the pecking order in the big scheme of things.

Together @ Amnesia announced headliners last Autumn and published (strong) weekly line ups in place by Valentines Day – so it can be done!  By comparison, other promoters and venues appear to act like its 1995 and only start work on 1st April!

For folk to book a clubbing-orientated holiday with specified line ups, in June, the balance needs to be paid 6 weeks prior to departure, which is early April. So you can appreciate it puts operators like myself in an awkward position; asking for balances for an event at which the content is not clear – would you book that holiday?

This delay in clarifying which parties are happening on which nights, and what line ups people can expect has led to me deciding, after fifteen years, not to work in June anymore. OK, so it’s only 4-500 people, and Ushuaia won’t be requesting a overdraft upon hearing this, but my groups are indicative of the type of visitor the superclubs need in June; music-savvy, cool 20-35 year old’s, who book more than three nights, and who typically visit a major venue most nights, spending a considerable amount of money in the process. What’s more, these are the type of guest who stay all night, rather than ‘swing door’ it after taking a selfie at the back of the dancefloor and are in bed for 2am ready for another day’s posing at Blue Marlin.

I think this is a pattern which has already happened; September is the new June; line up’s have been announced, people know what (and who) they’re going to get to see play…and they can still go to Glastonbury or Euro ’16.

Their seats on the plane’s will doubtlessly be replaced by eager Hen and Stags, so visitor numbers won’t reflect the change, but don’t be surprised if more and more of the big players don’t open their doors until July next year. KF

Kirk Field has championed Ibiza since discovering it in 1990. For the next decade he covered the island positively for Mixmag, Time Out and various National newspapers and magazines. In 1999 he set up Radical Escapes – the UK’s first independent clubbing travel company who have been instigating international insomnia (in Ibiza specifically), ever since.

Ibiza Business: The Challenge of June

 

We are now well into the summer season and the streets of Ibiza seem busy yet I’m hearing the same story from a lot of local businesses: takings down, profit down. 

Here at Ibiza Property Shop we had a great start to the year with villa holiday rentals performing well however since April it’s been a struggle with heavy discounts in May & June. I spoke to traders in Ibiza Town and San Antonio this week who tell me the same story: Lots of people around but takings down is the recurring theme. 

Of course the super clubs and beach clubs are doing very well but that’s like saying Old Trafford is busy on a Saturday afternoon when Man U are at home. The world class venues will always perform well but it is the smaller local traders and family businesses that are concerned that the same few get the lions share of the pie. We all know that from mid July to mid September the island is going to be madness, it always is, but how can local business survive on 60 days per year? it’s the shoulder periods that we need to maximize for us all to have a truly good year.

Why?

I can only put it down to the shifting patterns of tourism with long weekend breaks now becoming more prevalent and tourists spending all their money on 2 or 3 major events then cutting back during the rest of their stay. Many now want to stay close to the big venues such as Ocean Beach, Ushuaia and Hard Rock and there is definitely over capacity in the villa rental market, where there used to be a few hundred villas for rent any search will now give you over 3000 options. It also appears that the mid market is deserting the island so as a business you’ve got to be either bargain basement or top end. 

Aviation continues to be a problem with Ibiza flight prices being higher than our competitors who also enjoy better flight times. This is a historic problems but the simple fact is that Ibiza people will put up with flights at ungodly hours whereas Mallorca and Marbella people won’t. 

The changing dynamic to weekend breaks has taken the traditional businesses a little by surprise so we are playing catch up but Ibiza doesn’t stay behind for long. The White Isle is constantly evolving but the increase in competition on the island and by emerging destinations means that we need to consistently up our game and be more flexible especially during the lower and mid seasons months. 

Ibiza continues to enjoy incredible growth but as with in any competition there are always winners and losers and June has proved that so far.