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Trouble in paradise, the changing face of Ibiza

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Trouble in paradise, the changing face of Ibiza
Ibiza Private Jetset

We are living in strange times. The world has undergone huge upheaval, the winds of change have travelled far and wide since the pandemic hit us in 2019. Here on our little island of Ibiza we have felt that change acutely. Not just because we rely on international tourism so much but crucially it was the catalyst for what some would say was the inevitable gentrification of Ibiza. Perhaps gentrification isn’t the best term to describe what is happening in Ibiza right now but there is a definite sense of hyper capitalisation and elitism by design. Exclusion of ordinary people to make room for the superrich. While many Ibiza veterans fled the island due to the closure of the tourist industries in the first weeks of lockdown, Ibiza recorded record landings of private jets at the airport. Ironically it has been the “socialists” who have been the ones driving this train full steam ahead. There is a palpable feeling of social conservatism and moral outrage towards the kind of personal freedoms people have enjoyed in Ibiza for decades but a very willing acceptance for high net tourism, indeed the very essence of what made Ibiza a safe haven not just from the strong arm of fascism on the peninsula but for people seeking refuge from oppressive or conservative societies the world over, this is now being eroded, eradicated! The hippies are no longer welcome, unless of course they are of high net worth, very important hippies, “Vippies” if you like. It was Franco who very successfully developed the tourist industry that financially vitalised Spain, but in particular the Balearic Islands which had little to no industry, this brought huge waves of International tourism of all socio economic backgrounds due the the devaluation of the peseta. The resulting affordable and accessible tourism made Ibiza somewhat of a social melting pot. In this little safe haven from the mainland the international Jetset rubbed shoulders with working class ravers, age, gender, class, sexuality, nationality was all equal on the dance floor. In reality Ibiza led the way in inclusivity, a true egalitarian utopia. Many of those who visited Ibiza on affordable family holidays returned as clubbers later (on average a clubber spend twice as much money in Ibiza as regular tourists) those clubbers then return years later with their families and the cycle continues, Ibiza had something to offer everyone, this is crucial.

95% of the economy in Ibiza is generated from tourism, it’s safe to say all of Ibiza’s inhabitants are either here as tourists or residents making a living from tourism in some direct or indirect way. So the decisions the government makes to “change the model of tourism” effect us all profoundly. The role of music, events and clubs in the success of Ibiza as a tourist destination can’t be overstated, this is well documented. However much of the politicians brush over this and like to talk about our great beaches and nature as being an alternative tourist attraction to the leisure industry, as true as that may be, we have beautiful beaches and nature but those things are not unique to Ibiza, our musical heritage and club culture is what is unique to Ibiza, this is what made our little island world famous. This is a cold hard fact wether they like it or not.

The true consequences of this experiment in changing the model of tourism may not be seen for for some time. What did become immediately apparent during the pandemic was then when tourists were allowed to return and the leisure industry was not there to entertain the masses, there were huge infrastructural problems policing beaches and areas of natural beauty, this is inevitably what happens when you commodify your nature, it can no longer be preserved. There was hysteria in the press about illegal villa parties and organised crime without a mention that this may perhaps be a byproduct of legal venues being prevented from operating, did prohibition teach us nothing? There was a kind of cognitive dissonance on the part of the politicians pushing their agenda, wilfully oblivious to the consequences. Pushing for new emergency laws to enter private residences instead of addressing the elephant in the room and working with licensed venues to help them reopen safe controlled spaces that have done this safely for decades. It’s almost as if there is some other agenda.

There is a strange dichotomy in the press in Ibiza, today I read the announcement by Pepe Roselló is re-opening Space as a restaurant. This announcement has been met with huge enthusiasm by the media despite the fact Roselló has been writing weekly articles denouncing any club activity that happens outside the confines night clubs for years, the irony was missed apparently. I can appreciate Roselló’s bitterness at having his life’s work taken from him when Matutes refused to renew his lease. This was watershed moment in the history of Ibiza, it marked the changing of the guard, the corporatization of Ibiza’s most beloved institution. Clubs once the vision of the individual were being replaced by boards and shareholders as we would see with Pacha following suit. 

As the plot thickens it may well be the presence of Matutes group in the night life sector that ultimately preserves it, albeit in a much more commercial incarnation. Back in 2008 when the PSOE last took power their first order of business was to shut down the clubs, they shut down Amnesia, Bora Bora and most notably DC10, whom they were determined to shut down permanently. DC10’s owners Sito and Antonio Lara fought this case vehemently, they took it to the high court and won their case based on unfair competition, citing noise levels from Ushuaia directly. Without Goliath there may well be no David. Today while I read about the fantastic sausages and octopus that will be keeping the spirit of Space alive at Space the restaurant I scroll to the next story to read San Jose council are denouncing DC10 for noise disturbance and for not enforcing the wearing of masks. This has been widely condemned in the same newspaper. 

It’s clear Ibiza is suffering from an identity crisis, she wants your money but she wants it on her terms, she wants your minimum spend upfront but she wants you to sit at your table quietly and shut your mouth. She wants to preserve her nature but she wants to shill it as a mass tourist attraction too. She wants you to visit her beautiful beaches but she wants to monitor you with biometric surveillance when you do. She wants to charge you excessively but does’t want your excess. It would appear she wants her cake and she wants to eat it. 

However appearances can be deceiving, a recent interview with the president of the Consell d’Eivissa, Vicent Marí, would indicate that these decisions on nightlife are not necessarily those of the Ibiza government, rather that of the autonomous government of the Balearics, the word of Palma it would appear, is final. Although Francina Armengol Presidenta del Govern de les Illes Balears it is reported, enjoyed late night drinking session during the strictest period of the lockdown, it would seem that she and her party believe that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable for the rest of us, not just during the pandemic but in perpetuity, “do as I say, not as I do”. It should be noted that Mallorca have had some success with changing their model or tourism. They divested in night leisure and invested in their massive marine tourism industry with positive results. However nobody could rationally compare the music and club culture of Ibiza to that of Mallorca, anyone who does fundamentally does not understand the culture of this island and therein lies the problem. These decisions being made in Palma are from people who don’t understand the unique model of our tourism, there is a reason why people pay twice as much as money per person to stay in Ibiza than Mallorca and it’s not the beaches. Ibiza’s rich social and musical culture is a huge asset that the powers that be refuse to acknowledge.  

It gave some me hope to read the common sense that Vicent Marí outlined in his interview, addressing the problems that the closure of our “leisure industry” has caused. However he pointed out that “leisure is important but it has to be leisure without excesses”. Which I guess brings us back to the imposed morality of a socially conservative government, how we are permitted to enjoy ourselves and who will be tolerated here. It’s important we make it understood that our musical and club heritage has huge cultural value to everyone on this island regardless of wether you are personally a fan of it or not. More importantly we need our voices heard that we won’t have our personal lives dictated to by government, they can no longer use their emergency pandemic powers to restrict our movements, to lock us in our houses, to stop us from dancing or tell us what is acceptable for us to do in our private lives. Times have changed, we have over 70% vaccination rate and are reaching heard immunity, the world has turned and we are finally seeing an end to two years of sacrifice, hardship and isolation. Winstone Churchills famous quote “never let a good crises go to waste” was certainly not missed by the current administration. But there is a silent majority who don’t agree with this new agenda, people who feel Lio and DC10 can exist on the same island, people who want to return to their regular work and not simply be slaves to the rich, they wan’t to afford to enjoy to the places they used meet, eat, drink and dance. They don’t want moral governance and they certainly don’t want their futures determined by politicians in Palma. Make your voices heard on social media or make them heard at the poles if they refuse to listen. There is scope for many different types of tourism in Ibiza, eradicating the demographic that has sustained it could have irreversible consequences.

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