In the third of our four part series looking at the possible impact of Covid 19 on the island of Ibiza, this week, we discuss the element that makes Ibiza so unique and special to many of us, its people. It was the legendary KU promoter Brasilo de Oliviera who stated, “There are two worlds in Ibiza – their world (the Ibicencos) and the tourists”, add to this a new group, the non national residents who rely on tourism for their income, and you get a fair picture as to the make up of the islands 145,000 population. The non national citizens of Ibiza are a diverse and multicultural crew, many from South America, a continent with close ties to Ibiza, as Ibicencos fled there after the Spanish Civil War in the 30’s. Add in the British, French, Dutch, Asian, Czech, Russian, Irish and Australian and you get a flavour of the colorful variety of lifeforms that inhabit the place. This group of people are the ones under most pressure this summer, as many live hand to mouth, preferring to operate under the radar on the black market. We will deal with each of the three groups briefly in this article, but first the latest from the Covid 19 Ibiza desk.
The one constant since we went on lockdown here 30 days ago, is the evolving and changing nature of the crisis. It remains the case that nobody is sure whats going to happen, and in the vacuum of strong leadership, disorder and confusion reigns. Under fire Spanish PM, Pedro Sanchez, and his Madrid Government have seized power during the State Of Alarm and autonomous regions like Ibiza cant act unilaterally in any situation. There is now a growing feeling that the season is over from a mass tourism perspective, as the most important factor associated to mass tourism is logistics. Tourists, if they are to get to Ibiza, need the airports and airlines to resume their schedules and this is not going to happen any time soon, as liquidity and cash flow problems start affecting consumers and producers. Many financial experts are forecasting a deep recession to follow the lockdown, but im not sold on this view. Yes we are going to loose businesses overboard, most likely it will be the fittest that survive, but I don’t feel its going to be as bad as 2010. During the last recession in Europe, displays of wealth were frowned upon, so the rich escaped to Ibiza where they were free to do what they wanted behind discreet closed doors. Ibiza prospered, in fact, many of the wealthy set who were discovering Ibiza for the first time that decade, enjoyed the island so much, that they invested into property, driving up prices to a point where they rank the highest in Spain today. During the last recession, the Russians were the big money spenders, but departed as soon as they arrived, not finding the island bling enough for their demanding tastes, unlike the Dutch, who invested heavily into real estate. Add to the recession fears, the borders closing in Europe due to contagion, the banning of large music events in France and Britain, a touted second wave of infection alongside the need to retain social distancing, and the makings of a perfect storm heading towards Ibiza, start to gather over the Mediterranean.
For the tourists, depending on their personal situation and origin, its not going to be made easy for them to travel to an island this summer. Officials in the Spanish Tourism Ministry are forecasting a 75% drop in arrivals for June and a 50% drop in August and that’s just in their national market. Ibiza Hoteliers, are saying that they will be ready to open in June but with airlines restricted and others under financial pressure, its hard to see how they will fill rooms in June or July. In light of yesterdays Festival cancellations, its now a 50/1 shot that any of the islands super clubs will open this summer. We will deal with this in our last article next Sunday, but tourists should be aware that the only reason clubs and ticket sellers have not cancelled their party calender’s yet, is because they are all waiting for the Government to do it for them, easing their financial liability and re-opening contract negotiations with DJ’s. I cant see Northern European tourists wanting to travel so soon after the lock down, but make no mistake, there are a number of die hard Ibiza fans who will find a way to travel no matter what. But I now sense that the island is resigning itself for at best a skeleton season, especially in the mass tourism service industry.
The local property owners, big business interests and the Ibicencos will survive, as all they have to do is turn off the lights, batten down the hatches and isolate for the season. The non national resident population, are at most risk during this crisis. They are the service staff, the cleaners, the dealers, the admin and marketing teams, those at the coalface of the mass tourism model that runs for just 6 months., something that will refocus the mindsets towards developing a winter tourist season alongside a reduced summer one. The island urgently needs to find a way to protect and retain these staff on the island, the reason so many continue to stay, is because they are survivors and understand how Ibiza operates and networks. They are the online influencers, artists, free thinkers, DJ’s and party people that help connect Ibiza organically to millions of people every day. They are the ones who will have to adapt and find different ways to earn income or else they will be heading home. Already some have started to leave as they sense the incoming storm in the air. Small will be beautiful this summer and many workers may have to change their direction and produce services or content for the new markets that are sure to develop after lockdown. There is enough creative talent on the island for them to find a way to survive this summer, as they are the key to unlocking Lockdown and getting Ibiza back up and running whenever that call is made.