Ibiza 2023 Summer Preview. Tips, Predictions and Politics.
As we enter a new year and await spring blossoming, the Mediterranean island of Ibiza approaches a new dawn in its colourful history. The Innocent, raw and beautiful landscape discovered by The Hippies in the sixties is all but extinct, replaced by a shiny new and commercial vista. Ibiza is no longer a Spanish backwater; it has transformed into a fashionable diva, a darling of the Instagram generation and possesses the second-highest property prices in Spain. Gone are the local family hotels, replaced by foreign concepts and international brands as it fast becomes a playground for the rich.
The island’s transformation can be closely linked to the business model of its wealthy sugar daddy, the powerful Matutes family, who own or control most of Ibiza’a 572sq km area. Having built a fortune in shipping, real estate, hotels and banking, the family, under the direction of its fresh prince of Ibiza, Abel Matutes, has invested heavily in the luxury entertainment and hospitality sector. With the assistance of the Pissenem Brothers owned The Night League, they recently took control of the island’s famed clubbing industry. This multi-billion euro operation lends Ibiza its prestige which attracts a premium charge on its associated services. After a lengthy legal battle, they now own Privilege nightclub, which I suspect will be decommissioned as a club for the most obvious reason, they won’t want to dilute their Hi/Ushuaia brand in Playa Den Bossa. In the space of four seasons, the Matutes/Pissenem axis has conquered the predominantly British-influenced clubbing industry, which they have pushed aside surplus to requirements, an old Ibicenco tactic.
The traditionally British resort of San Antonio, which up until 2016 catered to the budget market, is under siege from Spanish and international investors keen to remodel the area as a modern cosmopolitan town reflective of Madrid and Barcelona culture. The West End’s slow death has starved most foreign-held leases out. Spanish business investors have snapped them up as the area is rezoned into a cultural quarter resembling the La Marina area of Ibiza with a completion date for 2027. San Antonio is where the majority of investment is pouring into right now, and I expect that to continue into 2025. It is the only municipality held by the pro-business PP party, the Tories of Spain. If they can retain that seat of power at the local elections in May, then the upmarket development of San Antonio will continue unabated
Those elections will undoubtedly highlight the island’s colourful political diversity. Culturally Ibiza is traditionally a Catalan-administered island, but with the influx of wealth and foreign investment, that power balance is shifting. This is the reason why all official town names and signposts are in Catalan and why public servants must speak the Catalan language to work in the civil service. This has been a contentious issue in local politics for decades. The Matutes family are dyed-in-wool Monarchists with close connections to Madrid, the PP party and The Vatican. While not as right-wing as VOX, they are islanders who are more liberal in their thinking. Abel Matutes junior has yet to follow his father and sister into politics but is viewed as potential PP leadership material; however, he is currently focused on the family business, which takes up much of his time. While local resident groups and environmentalists have won a few battles, they are far from winning the war to control the island. If the Catalan-propped socialist Government in Spain falls and a PP/Vox Government replaces them, it could be game over for the Catalans, who will continue to sell their valuable property holdings and retire.
The marriage between TNL and The Matutes Group remains in its honeymoon period
The rise of Hi and Ushuaia is closely linked to the health and direction of the island’s clubbing industry and economy. While many scoffed and doubted their future, Hi has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of Space. The anti-Hi sentiment is not as prevalent as it used to be, and they are so far in front that it’s not a contest as to who the best club on the island is. The Pissenem brothers have lent their gallic flair to its success through next-level design, production, programming and relationship-building qualities. The indigenous Matutes family have added professional human resources, much of them Spanish. Amnesia will continue to court the British market, and the club desperately needs to retain the services of Elrow, which is rumoured to be considering its options for 2023 and beyond. DC10 is flying into turbulent times, and as readers of the blog will recall, they made more enemies than friends during the covid pandemic, making itself an easy target for the socialists who will rally local resident votes to win the municipality of Sant Joseph, home to Hi and Ushuaia. The Italian-managed club also lost the services of Jamie Jones, who will reside in Amnesia again this summer. Some dodgy calls were made on their programming schedule in 2022, but if they retain the services of Micheal Bibi and Solid Groves, then an inspired replacement for Paradice will keep them relevant. Ibiza, without the influence of a healthy DC10, would be a poorer place. However, Bibi is hot property on the Ibiza scene and is sure to be on every club’s wishlist. Rumours that The Night League are keen to avail of his services are currently in play.
The marriage between The Night League and The Matutes Group remains in its honeymoon period, and I cannot see anything in the foreseeable future tearing that relationship apart. They will dictate the direction of the clubbing industry on the island, and both the underground and mainstream DJ talent will follow as they possess the finance and production skills to attract the top DJs and talent. The continued success of Black Coffee and Afterlife, two parties who supported them from its beginning, is a testament to the club’s influence. The Martinez Brothers are the latest underground artists to see the light. Rumours TNL will take a controlling stake in Pacha have been circulating for a few seasons. With the club currently up for sale, I would not be surprised to see them make a move on it this year and consolidate their power base in Playa den Bossa. I foresee a time not too far away when all clubbing activities are centred in Playa den Bossa, becoming the Las Vegas of Spain and, in the process, increasing room rate revenue. Marco Carola shaded Solomun as Pacha’s most popular party last year, and it will be interesting to see how Solomon responds to losing the top position on “his island”. The question on everybody’s lips is how long will it be before he signs with The Night League.
Since its inception, The Night League has moved to quickly announce its opening party dates. In the old days, the Space Opening Fiesta heralded the opening of the clubbing season, traditionally the last weekend of May. The move by Hi and Ushuaia to open earlier in April looks set to remain after its initial trial was a resounding success in 2022. The new season will help those on a budget, as prices during the shoulder months are discounted by 50% in some cases. It’s also a great time to visit the island, coinciding with the IMS festival in Dalt Vila. All the restaurants are open; service is fresh, there is less traffic on the roads, and generally more room to move about. As always, for the off-season months, I recommend booking last minute as prices remain too high, which has resulted in slow bookings to date for Ibiza 2023. If there is availability, hotels, especially those outside of PDB, will discount their rooms to fill them. The Matutes-owned Palladium Group offers attractive deals in their outlying hotels if you book direct. These include the advantage of dining in all of their hotels if you are a resident in any of them.
Staffing and the availability of workers will once again have a negative impact on the tourist season this year. Ibiza has been sleepwalking into a staffing crisis for the past few seasons, mainly due to the rising cost of living compared to the low wages paid to seasonal workers. Demand is also outstripping the supply of housing and workers’ accommodation as landlords rent out workers’ rooms to tourists on AirB&B. Many residents of a bygone era can no longer afford to live on the island working only six months of the year. This problem is getting worse, not better, and the business people I have spoken to cite the dwindling supply of workers as the main impediment to them opening longer.
If you intend to travel to Ibiza on Holiday during the peak season, then I would advise that you book via a reputable package tour operator. This ensures you have peace of mind as flights, rooms, transfers, luggage and insurance are covered at one price. Having worked as a rep for Jet 2 on the island, I can vouch for their professionalism and customer care service. Prices will only increase during the peak season, as will the traffic, room occupancy, and the lack of Taxi’s which are monopoly controlled in Ibiza. In July and August, when the Spanish are on holiday, book well in advance and that includes tables at popular restaurants.
One final tip, and I would rate this one highly, is to take advantage of the VIP Lounge at Ibiza Airport on your departure date. For a rate of €39, you get lots of room to relax, peace and quiet, and extra comfortable seating with charge points for your laptops and phones, along with complimentary food and drinks, including champagne. While it’s not as good as other airport lounges in terms of quality, it’s way better value than paying €15 for a Burger King meal or €10 for a Ryanair adventure. It makes the dreaded Ibiza departure experience much more bearable, and it’s worth every penny, especially if you arrive early. You get a four-hour stay. Hot and cold meals are served from 1 pm to 11 pm, with breakfast from 6 am. In the past, I have used my Revolute premium card to obtain a 50% discount on these rates. Tickets can be reserved here.
Also, don’t forget to avail of our exclusive 10% discount with local car hire company Moto Luis on any car rental this summer. Full details on how to avail of this discount can be found here.
So there you have it. Our preview for the season ahead. It promises to be another full-on summer, and the clubs will play a significant role in tourist footfall. Expect everywhere to be busy, and please remember to be kind to service staff. The more you shout and complain, the slower you will get served, especially in the local bars and restaurants. After the last few years, places are not putting up with arrogant attitudes as it’s not worth their time and effort to deal with. There are plenty more customers waiting in queue to get in. The same goes in a club; if you tip a barperson well on your first visit to the bar, smile and ask their name, it will normally ensure prompt service for the rest of the night. Kindness and respect go a long way in Ibiza.
Wishing you all a most enjoyable holiday. Please, if possible, don’t leave your brain on the plane, as naive tourists are the prey of pirates, and Ibiza is home to the most cunning of them. If I can be of any assistance, please feel free to contact me for no-obligation advice or help. [email protected]
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