Ibiza 2022 Preview. The Party Goes Underground.
Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory. Words penned by the romantic English poet Percy Shelly to describe the power of nostalgic times past. We have now suffered two years without the sound of music vibrating through our souls, gliding upon a Balearic dancefloor built on the foundations of inclusion and freedom of expression. Ibiza’s famous indoor dancefloors have remained closed except for a few sanitised events where masks and health certificates were required to enter. Before I venture any further with this article, let me be direct with my feelings on clubbing with masks and having to produce certificates and test results to enter a club. In my opinion, it is all Pete Tong and goes against everything dance music is about – underground counterculture. So with that core principle in mind, I will write my preview on the Ibiza 2022 club season.
Many voices and media outlets on the island of Ibiza possess a vested interest in promoting the opening of clubs and supporting the notion that dancing with masks and covid certs is somewhat acceptable. So it will be challenging to get a straight answer from any of the usual suspects who will again bow to their commercial paymasters. Let’s not beat around the bush here, those currently relying on the Ibiza clubbing sector are hanging on by their fingertips, and they would sell their mother to survive. Gone are the days of cheap living and hiding under the radar as Brexit heralded the introduction of TIE residency cards and even higher surcharges for ex-pats. The old ship is sinking, and the clever ones scramble for the lifeboats as the gentrification of the island continues.
Ibiza is in a state of flux right now, both politically and culturally, and I’m sad to say those nostalgic memories of carefree dancing on the floors of Ibiza super clubs are numbered. In my opinion, there is about a 20% chance that indoor clubs will open without covid restrictions in place this season. As I have already stated, mask-wearing and exclusion is not my style of clubbing; any club that opens under covid constraints is doing so for commercial reasons, not for the good of the party. Both Amnesia and Pacha are taking a battering in a perfect storm of gale-force winds that threaten to destroy them. Pacha had to ask for an 18 million state bailout. Amnesia is under investigation for tax evasion, and its owner recently signed the property into his son’s name. I would guess Privilege is finished as a club as the building is in a poor state of repair. Its new owner may have other ideas to develop the property into a Ushuaia styled Hotel experience, with the possibility that its famous swimming pool will be open-air again.
Ibiza sustains the second most expensive property prices in Spain; its real estate is trading at double the average selling price of the Iberian Peninsula. Clubs sitting on excess land are now worth more as development properties than entertainment venues, especially in light of the damage Covid 19 has inflicted on their business model. The island recently lost another club when the old Boom site was redeveloped for retail and apartment units. Ibiza has a housing crisis, and old clubs like Amnesia, Pacha, Eden, and Privilege sit on prime real estate. Pacha, now owned by an investment company, wouldn’t hesitate to sell the club if it made good business sense. A wealthy Dutch property developer owns Eden, and he is sitting on a hot site as San Antonio enjoys a bull market.
The biggest threat to Ibiza right now is Palma, the governing capital of the Balearic islands.
Sadly the nightlife sector faces an uncertain future not just in Ibiza but around the world. We witness daily evidence of this as clubs and pubs shut down around us. This week London club, The Drumsheds, announced it would be closing in February. Will Ibiza clubs bounce back to pre-covid conditions, or has the pandemic altered people’s social and behaviour patterns? Locals now comment there are too many clubs on the island and would prefer to see just a few like the old days. I would feel that the future of partying in Ibiza rests with the daytime Hotel model employed at Ushuaia by the Matutes Group with successful prototypes tried and tested by Es Vive, Ocean Beach, Pikes and Ibiza Rocks. Ibiza needs to adapt to the changing environment to retain its prestigious title as a clubbing mecca. Luckily the industry in Ibiza has some talented and creative individuals that can re-position it for the future, and there are already some exciting developments bubbling under the surface.
While the big clubs may have an uncertain future, there is hope for the underground scene. Villa parties were huge last season, and many of the island’s top DJs played private events to discreet, well-heeled crowds. Some promoters made a killing last summer. They had the good fortune not to be raided by local police who were also kind to the recent New Years Day event at DC10; the venue was denounced, but the party was permitted to continue. This bodes well for the underground scene on the island next season, so all is not lost; like everything in Ibiza, anything is possible if you know how to play the game. Discretion and respect will be the key, the locals are tolerant, not permissive, and those who understand this can survive underground.
The biggest threat to Ibiza right now is Palma, the governing capital of the Balearic islands. It sets the laws and regulations. While Ibiza in the past was allowed to do its own thing under right-wing governments, that permissive situation has changed with the arrival of a fragile socialist coalition propped up by Catalan separatists. It’s Spain’s first coalition government since it returned to democracy in the ‘70s, and they have a further two seasons in office before the next election is called before December 2023. They are not in favour of clubs, especially the anti-social element connected to them and with Catalan partners, they are risk-averse. The Catalans are clever political strategists, and they are the tail that wags the Sanchez coalition’s dog. They will target the health-conscious and cultural local Catalan electoral base, which comprises residents associations, local restaurants, and small hotel owners who profited most from the enforced club closures. The number of Catalan tourists that visited Ibiza last summer was also noticeable, undoubtedly encouraged by €100 grants from Palma and cheap car/ferry deals sold by Mr Matutes ferry company, Balearia.
Unlike the rest of Spain, the local tourist economy on the island is doing well. Advance bookings are healthy for the season ahead. As a result of Brexit, the Dutch are replacing the British, the Germans are returning, and growth continues in the American and National markets. In my opinion, these Nationalities will drive the future economy and direction of the islands tourist industry, leaving the two main driving forces of the clubbing sector, The British and The Italians, behind. I would expect this local trend to continue next summer, with the clubs forced to trade under health restrictions once again. Another restricted clubbing season on the island will ensure that only the fittest will survive into 2023, a timeframe local sentiment predicts as the safest date to fully re-open.
Spain has witnessed a 6% fall in its GDP and will do everything it can to attract tourists to help boost its economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism. Once again, I feel it’s wise to wait and see how things develop around Covid 19 before booking a clubbing holiday to Ibiza next summer. Package holidays deals will offer the best value, especially within the UK market. I expect Ibiza 2022 to be more a less a carbon copy of the 2021 season, clubs will open, but I guess that they will be required to implement Covid health and safety regulations. The underground scene will be where the real party is, just like last summer. In my opinion, it will be 2023 before things return to pre-covid normality in clubland. Let’s hope they can survive until then.
The old Destino Ibiza resort, located at Cap Martinet with privileged views of Formentera and Ibiza port, will be rebranded as Five Hotels Ibiza.
It was a Pirate ship that sunk, laden with treasure, coins and jewels in the port of Ibiza that lent the now-lost beach its name. Platja des Duros
The show’s production also didn’t disappoint, with the lights, lasers, fire and smoke cannons being some of the best we have seen at Ushuaia.