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. 

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 and the Press – Guest Blog by Paul Ambrose

 

Paul Ambrose (aka Pabs) started his overseas career in Corfu in 1992 and eventually found himself in Ibiza in 1996 working for several holiday companies along the way. He is a qualified ski and snowboard instructor and his summers are spent mainly on the water but he has also been known to do the odd bit of work at Ibiza Property Shop where he is a partner. 

Paul: As a long term resident of the Island I am often infuriated by the way the Island is portrayed in the British press. Today I read about the demise of the Island in the Evening Standard as the so called party set move to Mykonos to be replaced with health freaks!

What a load of Rubbish!

We seem to get one of these articles every month or so written by ill informed, lazy journalists, most of whom appear to never to have set foot on the Island.
This week it’s Mykonos, last year it was Croatia and next week it will probably be Scarborough! The rich have always had their party haunts but Ibiza’s appeal has always been that it attracts a more diverse audience, from Brits on the drink to the super rich. They have all partied together for many years. The rich are not leaving – in fact there are more than ever (the number of leggy Russian ‘workers’ in Lio and Pacha proves that!)

Who are these health freaks? Where do they hang out? If these are the future of the Island I think we are all screwed! Has Matutes missed a trick investing in Ushuaia and the Hard Rock Hotel? Maybe he should have opened a juice bar and a health food shop!  In the article there is a quote ‘You can pretty much get a green juice everywhere’??? Have these people been out in Ibiza or San Antonio? I can’t recall seeing it on the menu at Blue Marlin, never mind in the Boozer Bar at the top of the west end!

Can we please have an article about the real Ibiza. PA

The Exodus Exit

  “There are boat parties and then there are SuperYacht parties” screamed the marketing campaign over the winter. A highly organized web campaign to showcase a new superyacht coming to San Antonio purely for boat parties but the dream has now turned into a nightmare for the island organizers and also the hundreds who have booked their tickets and ‘VIP table’ as Exodus has been cancelled indefinitely citing ‘island politics’. 

It’s always a little precarious launching a new product on the white isle but anything to do with the water is especially fraught with difficulty especially with docking restrictions and strict health and safety requirements. I spoke with the local organizers of Exodus in mid-May asking whether they had all the required permissions, licenses and health and safety in place and I was assured that they had. Having had many different Ibiza businesses over the years I know first hand that if you don’t have the right paperwork and permissions then it’s a complete non-starter with competitors more than ready to protect their patch and rightly so.

The official version is that they couldn’t secure a big enough mooring however I would have thought that this would have been organized BEFORE the big marketing campaign and promises to clients and promotors. 

As the Exodus organizers and promoters lick their wounds there are internet tales of clients chasing refunds and having to pay booking fees but I sincerely hope they get all their money back for something that was beyond their control plus it’s not great advertising for our town and Ibiza parties in general.

I saw the Exodus boat moored off the sunset strip on Sunday and it cut a sad figure before making its way to Valencia the following day. Maybe it will return in the future, maybe the owners & organizers were just unlucky or maybe it will go down as a guide on “how not to do things”.

Death and Pleasure on a Small Island

  2 young British men have died over the last 7 days in San Antonio at the same hotel in two separate, tragic incidents. Fraser Gillespie, 26, died after falling from from his 5th floor balcony whilst partying with up to 20 friends, his death is not being treated as suspicious. Then only a few days later Andrew Watson, 32, was found by a friend in his room, he was unresponsive and doctors were unable to revive him, drugs are the suspected cause.

It appears that these 2 young men have died during a relentless pursuit of pleasure.

Groups of young people arrive at their UK airport ready to party. They party in the departure lounge, they party on the plane and then they come through passport control screaming and shouting. The relevant authorities have already had 3 opportunities to firmly enforce standards but most have turned a blind eye, in fact the airport bar and the low cost airline have profited from this behaviour. Is it any wonder that these young people think they are in dreamland so who can blame them when they arrive at their holiday hotel or villa and want to carry on the party but as we have seen over the last week there can be serious consequences when you have a “but this is Ibiza, I can do anything” attitude.

Ibiza and its people have always been famous for their liberal nature and easygoing attitude but is this now the root of our problems? Imagine arriving at Dubai or Miami airport half cut, screaming and shouting, they wouldn’t tolerate it and those places are all the better for it, Ibiza has always turned a blind eye but how can we carry on doing that when our streets are being filled with over-zealous partygoers who have a complete personality transplant once they step foot on the island.

Isn’t it about time we said NO? Not all the time but just now and again? No you can’t act like hooligans on the plane. No you can’t scream & shout at all hours in your hotel. No you can’t do exactly what you want in Ibiza with no consideration for anyone else.  Getting the tone right is the key as we don’t want to become prissy head teachers tutting at everyone but there has to be a line otherwise everything becomes blurred. It’s imperative that Ibiza retains its magic but it’s also important that we send out a clear message otherwise more parents will be mourning their children over the coming months. 

There is no easy solution but as we enter a new political age it’s time for the authorities to tackle the problem head on in a open and honest way as to continue to ‘turn a blind eye’ would surely be very dangerous. Ibiza’s free spirit needs to be celebrated not abused otherwise we will devalue the one thing that defines us as an island.

Recent election manifestos promised change and a better touristic model for Ibiza and San Antonio so now it’s up to our new elected leaders to deliver on those promises.

The Juanjo Ferrer Dilemma

  Juan Jose Ferrer Martinez, head of the centre right PI party, now has a big weight on his shoulders. After 4 years of opposition at San Antonio town hall his party gained 3 seats in the recent municipal elections so he found himself in the unenvious position as kingmaker for the next administration. PP won 8 seats & PSOE/REINICIA won 6 & 4 respectively so his 3 seats were enough to give either side the 11 seats required for an overall majority, so it all came down to him & his party to decide who would be the next Mayor of San Antonio. 

After 4 years of being battered by the absolute majority of the Pepita Gutierrez regime it wasn’t a big surprise that he eventually decided to form a Tri-party coalition with PSOE/REINICIA and make Pep Tur ‘Cires’ the 1st socialist mayor of Ibiza’s 2nd largest town however on paper & character PI have much more things in common with PP so his decision is sure to cause some conflict within his own party but his desire to change San Antonio means that he is now part of a 3 party coalition with those who may not always be on the same page as him.

He was offered the Deputy Mayors job if he sided with the PP but a personality clash between the hierarchy of the 2 parties ensured that this was never really an option.

At yesterday’s inauguration his mood was very upbeat and as we chatted afterwards he told me that he knows that there will be challenging times ahead but he was happy that the people of San Antonio had given him & his coalition a chance to govern and a chance to change San Antonio.

I have known Juanjo since he was a teenage receptionist at a local hotel and he has worked tirelessly over the last 4 years on the opposing side trying to make San Antonio a better place. He now has his desired chance and also the extra responsibility due to his decision to side with PSOE/REINICIA. I wish him well and look forward to seeing the changes that he, Pep Cires and Pablo Valdes have promised for our town. MM

Pep Tur ‘Cires’ is Elected Mayor of San Antonio

This is the moment when Pep Tur ‘Cires’ was elected the Mayor of San Antonio by 13 votes to 8. All 21 councillors have 1 vote and as anticipated the Tri-party coalition of PSOE, REINICIA & PI joined forces to elect a socialist mayor for the first time in San Antonio’ s history. 

The atmosphere was electric with most councillors receiving whoops & applause when entering the chamber. The biggest cheer was for REINICIA’s 4 councillors who’s supporters were euphoric that this little known party had now become the holder of the Deputy Mayors office. The scenes were quite extraordinary with the socialists pumping fists and high giving after so many years of opposition. Especially animated was Pep Marge who has worked very hard for the socialists in San Antonio and now sees his sister Neus sit in one of the elected seats.  

All councillors were sworn in one by one dressed in their Sunday best apart from new Deputy Mayor Pablo Valdes who looked like he was from an indie rock band with ripped jeans, vest and tight jacket. 

The audience boasted at least 4 previous San Antonio mayors plus all the political heavyweights from PSOE such as Vicent Torres, Xicu Tarres and Pilar Costa. 

The PP showed great humility in what was a difficult day for them especially Pepe Sala who will spend the foreseeable future sitting in the chair of the leader of the opposition. 

I managed to talk to nearly everyone of the new local government congratulating them on their coalition pact but also reminding them that of their election promises and their underlying message that they intend to ‘change’ San Antonio for the better. 

So on Monday Mayor Pep Cires, Deputy Mayor Pablo Valdes and 2nd deputy Mayor Juanjo Ferrer will take up their new positions and embark on a new chapter for San Antonio. The campaign has now finished and its time put their words into actions and follow through with their election promises. There is no hiding place, San Antonio and especially myself will be watching. MM