In the first of our four articles examining the possible impact that Covid 19 may have on the beautiful island of Ibiza we take a look at the islands environment. In life, I have found there is usually a silver lining behind every grey cloud and while some will most certainly loose this season, the environment looks set to win big time as it jettisons the carbon footprint of over 5 million visitors arriving by sea, air and road. We tend to forget that Ibiza is a small island and each year it shoulders a huge drain on its dwindling natural resources, both on land and sea, as millions of tourists flush away tonnes of sewage and plastic into the sea, which itself is polluted by the armadas of private boats whose anchors damage its famed fields of Posidonia, the natural treasure of the Balearic islands and one of the oldest living organisms in the World.
There has been much gossip, fear, speculation and anxiety on the island with regard to Covid 19 and its impact on the 2020 tourist season. As of this week, there was 46 confirmed cases of Corona virus with one death relating to an elderly patient with underlying issues. This would still be considered a low risk outbreak, as another low risk island, the Isle Of Man with a similar area size to Ibiza, has registered 32 cases. So Ibiza with its small resident population of 147, 000, is doing an above average job in controlling the outbreak. Already locals are noticing the improving quality of the air, sea and environment around them, as lock-down approaches its third week. Don’t forget Ibiza voluntarily shut down before the rest of Spain due to the influx of people fleeing Madrid, the epicenter of the outbreak on the Iberian Peninsula, so it has been proactive in dealing with the pandemic to date.
Right now, the emerging white elephant in the room and gaining traction with the local Ibicenco population, is the idea of allowing the island a break from tourism this summer, giving it time to recover and heal from decades of mass tourism and in recent years, the gradual extension of its season. It would focus the minds of the islands residents as to what direction they really want for the island going forward in these changing and uncertain times. The environmentalist lobby in Ibiza is an effective and well connected one, having recorded famous victories over the developers at Salinas beach and Roca Lisa back before the millennium turned. If they call for a time out this season, green activists are well capable of delivering an effective campaign to restrict the number of people visiting the island this summer. Certain businesses will fail, but the land owning Ibicencos will most likely adopt Darwin’s view of natural selection and survival of the fittest – they have witnessed the rise and fall of many civilizations as they fought over the strategic island. There will be no shortage of new business ideas to replace those that sink. I will probably become shark bait for even suggesting this Green abomination to some, however I will be dealing with a linked economic plan later in the series, so please bear with me and take all the articles on balance as a whole.
The major player on the island, both politically and economically, is the Matutes family, owners of Hi, Ushuaia, Hard Rock Hotel, Privilege and large parcels of valuable real estate, not to mention island utilities and political infulence. They also own the Palladium Hotel Group, which sells the greatest amount of rooms, so its in their economic interests to lobby hard to keep the island open to business. They will be supported by a large swathe of the tourist services industry, many of whom are desperate and will not survive another season, as most live hand to mouth during the winter. If the Matutes Group and the Clubbing industry were to follow the clean, no plastic, environmentally friendly agenda their marketing departments were promoting for the last few seasons, then they should be looking at giving the island a break from tourism this season. But the only way I can see this happening, is if they are forced to write off half the season from say July onwards. The family have already donated hotels to the Spanish state to support the resistance against Covid 19 so their recently acquired philanthropist nature, could extend to protecting the environment – but dont hold your breath on this one.
What we are already seeing in Ibiza is a realignment of legal controls and state laws. Many of those who operate under the radar, without NIE numbers or rental contracts, will find it extremely difficult to survive this Covid 19 crisis. That in turn will free up accommodation and expose the black market operators, the ones who profit from trapping tourists – a time honored tradition of Ibiza pirates. The rouge element, that makes Ibiza so unique in character and adds a certain mystique to the island, is in real danger of falling through the cracks of a new Covid 19 dawn. But there are enough legal operators and workers on the island to keep the tourism industry there localized to smaller venues and crowds and a deep pool of resident DJ and promoter talent to draw from, rather than flying in expensive EDM and celebrity acts. But we will come back to this discussion in our clubbing article, the final episode in the series when we discuss the options that may work or not.
So, the purpose of this article, is to discuss and promote the idea of Ibiza prioritizing its environment and using the Covid19 crisis as a time to switch off the mass tourism taps, allowing the island to recover its depleted natural resources. Can it be done, is there a way to provide employment for the 147,000 residents on the island linked to an eco friendly future, with new business incentives promoting a greener, more sustainable planet? We only have to take a look at what happened in Venice after humanity gave nature a break there, with Dolphins and Swans returning to the canals as water quality improved due to less traffic on the waterways. Maybe Mother Nature is trying to tell us something, as the wildfires of Australia/America and floods of Europe, did not have the desired impact on our physic. Covid 19 has certainly kicked us unceremoniously in the ass and forced us to change the way we live and look at our lives. Will this new awareness help shape a greener future for Ibiza and our Planet and can the island adapt to a greener tourism model? Already Ibiza has a head start in this area, thanks to the biodiversity and organic farming culture introduced by the Hippies back in the sixties, so would a return to a more bohemian lifestyle sit well with the island? Lets wait and see, but please, factor in the environment to help aid decisions on the islands future business model.
Image Credits ; Ibiza Preservation Fund