The little island of Sa Conillera, off the west coast of Ibiza, is best known as a silhouette for the shimmering globe of the setting sun, as it melts into the sea in San Antonio. It rarely raises any attention, only historians and ornithologists make brief references to the uninhabited harsh rock that was named after the many rabbits that run wild on it. A protected species of Falcon and the legend that it was the birthplace of Hannibal, are its claims to fame. In recent months it was rudely awakened from its sleepy profile, when the Palladium Hotel Group, floated the idea that it wanted to refurbish its only building, an old lighthouse, into a luxury boutique Hotel. The strategic maneuver by the local Matutes family, who own the Palladium Group along with most of Ibiza, has caused quiet a stir. The ballsy move has caught many people off guard and has residents scratching their heads, as to what exactly Ibiza’s most powerful family are up to. The local council in San Antonio along with environmental groups, did not look favorably on the plan to commercialise a natural and protected area and their reaction has angered the Matutes, who do not seem to be able to catch a break when it comes to planning issues in recent years.
Politics in Ibiza is a rich and complex affair, that has more rabbit holes and burrows than Sa Conillera itself. Only an experienced veteran can safely navigate its intricate web of secrecy, that would make Masonic Lodges look like playschools. The Matutes family divide opinion greatly on the island of Ibiza, as Stephen Armstrong said of them in his excellent book, The White Island, “to hear critics of the Matutes you would think they were the Corleones; to hear their admirers, you’d think they were the Kennedys”. The Matutes own thousands of rooms in Ibiza and this year they will unveil Ibiza’s biggest 5 star hotel, when the new Hard Rock Ibiza opens on May 18, with over 500 rooms. Why they are making a big fuss and drama over 8 rooms on Sa Conillera, is as they say in Ibiza, ” no normal”. Its not as if its going to make or break them as their accountants go over the end of year profits.
There is probably more to this than meets the eye and in Ibiza there is usually a sub-plot lurking behind any good story. The huge “EiviVegas” development that was proposed by the Matutes Group for Playa den Bossa last year, is currently stalled much to the frustration of its financiers. While locals had been cautious at the start, willing to consider it, opinion has now swung against the ambitious plan, especially the proposed construction of a large shopping center that local retailers claim would drive business away from their small shops, due to the vacuum created by free parking and easy shopping. The Sa Conillera Lighthouse Hotel project, may be the first skirmish in a battle to win a greater commercial war or a classic red herring. It highlights the fact that Ibiza is all about money these days, as its simplicity and natural beauty is fast becoming an endangered species, much like the Elenora Falcon on Sa Colillera island.