It’s the final week of April and so far this month has been a real eye opener.
The big question over winter was if the post covid boom of last summer would lead to some form of bust this year however this has been emphatically answered with a ‘no’. In over 3 decades I’ve never known such a busy start to a summer season.
The Ibiza streets are already bustling, the beaches and restaurants are packed and the Island has come alive earlier than ever before. We have been blessed with some unbelievable weather but even so, the numbers don’t lie.
With more daily international flights coming into the Island than ever before the trend is set to continue for the end of April and May which is traditionally the low season. In San Antonio Pikes, O Beach and Mambo have already opened, the International Music Summit starts this week, a full month earlier than when it was originally conceived, and let’s not forget Ushuaia and Hï also have their opening parties this coming weekend. Even Amnesia has jumped onboard with an early party this Friday. Wow!
Not only have we seen an amazing start to the summer season, last week it was reported that Ibiza now has 4 of the 6 most expensive towns to buy a property in the whole of Spain – Full list here. Traditionally it has been Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the list however this has been superseded by Sant Josep at number 1 followed by Santa Eulària in second. Ibiza Town is in fifth place with San Antonio in sixth – who’d have ever thought that!
This is fantastic news if you already own a property on the White Isle but not so good if you looking to get on the ladder. As ever it’s a double edged sword but is another significant signal that Ibiza is at an all time high and since when has surging property prices been a bad sign about the local economy.
The elephant in the room as usual is the phenomenally high rental prices coupled with historically low wages and ongoing staffing issues. Many businesses are desperate for staff but there isn’t the footfall any more and even if there was, there’s nowhere for them to live, not at a reasonable price anyway.
So the conundrum of the White Isle continues to baffle the so-called experts but with world class clubs, a hotel sector that is unrecognisable from a decade ago, a burgeoning culinary reputation, 300 days of sunshine a year and the most incredible nature it doesn’t take a genius to unravel the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
The summer season is now well and truly upon us and the signs are very good, the usual issues will no doubt raise their head over the coming months but the view from inside tells us that Ibiza is at the very top of its game, make no mistake about that!
The Balearic Government’s new laws designed to crack down on alcohol excess have made front page news around the globe and started off many debates.
Balearic politicians have decided to target bar crawls, happy hours, ‘balconing’ and party boats in 3 specific geographical areas, namely Magaluf and Arenal in Mallorca and the West End of San Antonio in Ibiza.
It’s no secret that these areas have a reputation for cheap alcohol coupled with a clientele of mainly young British tourists on a limited holiday budget.
While some will see this as negative press others will see it as an overdue crackdown and many resorts around the world will be watching closely to see whether these new laws could be useful in their own tourist hot spots.
The frustrating thing from a local perspective is that while the selling of cheap alcohol is undoubtedly an issue there are other problems in these areas such as pickpockets, prostitutes and illegalstreet selling that seem to be continually overlooked.
Ironically when questioned local politicians say that they are inhibited by existing laws. Double standards? When you live and work in these areas and your teenage kids roam the same summer streets as tourists then you want zero tolerance on the most important issues andexcessivealcoholsalesisn’t top of thelist.
Here in San Antonio bar crawls haven’t been around for years but unscrupulous bar owners offer ridiculously cheap drinks deals to passing youngsters that can only result in one outcome so any new laws against this are welcome in my opinion.
Party boats aren’t a massive issue as most are well controlled after previous unsavoury incidents required them to get their house in order whilst anything that deters youngsters from jumping from one balcony to another can only be a good thing.
But what will it really mean after the furore has died down? The reality is that laws are only effective if they are implemented with vigour, fairness and stealth and this is where we have previously come unstuck in the Balearics and it’s worth noting that San Antonio already has a shortage of local police officers.
Ultimately it is local business owners who need to self police to ensure that not only do they protect the reputation of the resort but also the welfare of youngsters, many who are on their first ever holiday abroad.
Getting the balance right is the biggest challenge and anything that focuses on protecting young tourists whilst also trying to change the perception of much maligned resorts should be applauded however the jury is still out as to whether this is a serious initiative or just political rhetoric that will soon beforgottenabout.
They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity or as Oscar Wilde once wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”.
Social media is a great observatory and a study by the consultancy firm Siblaire (commissioned by Balearic TV station IB3) has revealed that the use of the word ‘Ibiza’ beats all of the other Balearic Islands when it comes to Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
620,000 web messages were analysed between 15 December 2016 and 24 January 2017 revealing which Island is the most talked about online. The results were as follows:
Unsurprisingly the main topics for Ibiza web chat were tourism, discotheques, music and fun as well as celebrities who come to the island, the events that take place and the best selling song ‘I took a pill in Ibiza’.
Consultants Sibilare explained that even though they thought Ibiza would be prominent it was still a surprise to see the overwhelming results. The firm added that most web chat is spontaneous so it’s a great way of observing what the public are talking about.
Ibiza accounts for 13% of the Balearic population whereas Mallorca accounts for 77%.
Source: Diario de Ibiza
NOTE: This is a localised survey but still an interesting insight into Ibiza’s relationship with social media.
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.
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.
The standoff between Amnesia & San Antonio Council has taken another turn with the announcement that the SuperClub has changed its hours for its widely anticipated opening party.
A statement from the club explains that it has decided to open from 4pm on 28 May and continue until 6am because it has been denied a morning licence and “despite the continuous obstacles and disadvantages….we will fight so that the magic continues in Ibiza and make sure the music never stops” encouraging people to use the hashtag #youwillneverdancealone
This is part of an ongoing row which has seen the club continually flout the law by closing late and then paying the ensuing fines. Amnesia has had 31 sanctions over the last 2 years paying fines totalling 102,000 euros leading to San Antonio Town Hall’s decision to refuse the extended hours application for its owning party.
Opening at 4pm is a surprising turn of events but Amnesia was left with no other option under current legislation if it wanted to extend its hours. Mirroring Space’s opening hours model is a risky strategy especially as other opening parties are on the same day however Amnesia has consistently delivered the goods and is rated by many as the best SuperClub opening on the White Isle.
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.
After almost 25 years the fabled goats of Es Vedra have now been eradicated from the small islet that lies off the west coast of Ibiza. 5 females and 1 male were introduced to Es Vedra in 1992 however the Balearic and Island governments have now decided to get rid of them to “recover the native flora of the rock”.
After consultation it was decided that the best way was to kill them rather than remove them so yesterday (4 Feb 2016) environmental agents sailed over to the islet and at 8am began shooting all the helpless creatures. By 2pm their grisly task was complete although they will return today to ensure that none were missed in the cull.
The slain animals will be left on Es Vedra to decompose naturally as it was also deemed too dangerous to remove the carcasses even though this is technically against the law (according to Ley 8/2003 de Sanidad Animal).
Caterina Amengual, Director of Natural Areas and Biodiversity for the Balearic Department of Environment (belonging to the environmentalist coalition ‘MES per Mallorca’) said “it’s a question of priorities and the conservation of ecosystems is a priority. We have an obligation to protect natural areas”.
The Ibiza Insular Minister of Environment, Miquel Vericad of GUANYEM EIVISSA, congratulated the Balearic Government for the decision to remove the goats commenting “We have a duty to protect our heritage, which makes it unique to Es Vedra and Ibiza.”
Some local residents are very upset about the decision especially as the same government recently proudly announced that the Balearics were ‘anti-bull fighting’. Ibiza residents are well known for their love of all animals so they are decrying this as double standards.
The goats of Es Vedra could be clearly seen from sailing vessels and were part of the myth and aura of the rock. I myself have spent many hours moored around Es Vedra trying to convince friends aboard that the goats actually existed. Sometimes we left without seeing them but many times we were able to spot some of the herd carefully traversing the steep rock face. It’s an extremely sorry end to a story that I often told and always put a smile on my face (especially when I was proved right over the doubters).
The Balearic & Ibiza government have been unequivocal in saying that this was the best course of action in protecting one of Ibiza’s most famous landmarks but a small light has gone out on the mythical rock and you can’t help thinking they have taken the easiest and cheapest option. Delivering death to Es Vedra is not good Karma but the environmental experts know what they are doing after all, don’t they?
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.
As our island politicians return from an all-expenses paid trip to London’s World Travel Market the topic of winter tourism has raised its head yet again.
This has been exasperated by the warm autumn weather that has seen Ibiza reach temperatures of up to 30 degrees in the sun and also the Sharm el-Sheikh tragedy that saw a jetliner bought down (apparently by a bomb) with a large loss of innocent lives. This tragedy along with the Tunisian lone gunman has seen traditional North African destinations become almost no-go zones for tourists leaving the travel market looking for more short haul options for winter destinations.
Even though the opportunity is right in front of us the commercial and political will of the Island suggests that despite the posturing our leaders are content with the status quo of busy summers followed by very quiet winters that allows for a great quality of life. Put simply, they earn enough in the summer so don’t need to open in the winter.
For those not in a privileged position, Ibiza’s unemployment queues get longer in the winter so why can’t the money spent on stemming the flow of poverty be used for creating jobs? The current situation sees many families on the breadline by January. Surely better to invest in people than effectively pay them to do nothing.
On the island itself the subject of winter tourism is very polarizing with many wanting to carry on with the traditional 6 months on/6 months off and others moaning about the lack of work opportunities.
Those that denounce the idea of winter tourism saying such things as the island ‘needs a rest’ and ‘we love the peace and quiet in the winter’ obviously know very little about it as it’s completely different to the summer with an older more discerning tourism showing interest in local culture and society.
Many miss the fact that Ibiza is already open for winter tourism but it isn’t doing it very well.
As a destination the island has a whole range of activities from cycling to walking to gastronomy to sightseeing to yoga to relaxing at spas: the spectrum is huge.
Most towns on the island have activities every weekend which are inclusive and fun yet they don’t seem able to advertise and get the message out there to anyone apart from an inner circle who seem to know everything. It’s all very last minute and tourism doesn’t work like that nowadays with forward planning needed to take advantage of lead-in prices.
Air Europa and Vueling have more flights, BA now operate a successful program of daily winter flights from London and Ryanair are opening an Ibiza base in March 2016 so as things are looking very rosy for an increased number of winter connections now would appear to be the time to push on.
Ibiza in winter has the climate, it has the product and it has the location so we urgently need to to extend the tourist season not by making into a Benidorm or a December into August but by making March and November similar to April and October. The problem is that to do that the Island has to be open for business on a bigger and better scale and that right there is the biggest challenge.