The third edition of our eight part Mid Season Report.
With many business owners on the island of Ibiza scratching their heads in puzzlement as to why high Hotel occupancy rates (the highest in Spain for June) are similar to last year, but tourists are not spending in their shops, bars and restaurants, this summer has been a difficult one for some. There is a new generation of tourist now coming to Ibiza, lured by the appealing social media posts of so called “influencers”, celebrities and TV shows holidaying on the island. “Brand Ibiza” adds value these days, but that value is not reflected in the quality, price and service they receive when they get here. This summer I have noticed an increase in the number of people from India and America visiting the island, an exotic garnish on top of the traditional Spanish, British and Italian tourist pie. The Dutch are fast replacing the price conscious Germans, who feel the island has become too expensive for them and are looking for better value elsewhere in Europe. When the Germans get up and leave with their beachtowles, then its worth sitting up to notice what is happening around you. A welcome sight is the slow return of the Scandinavians to Ibiza, an island their kin The Vikings invaded in 859.
The modern tourist visiting Ibiza today, is not your average, all inclusive package family type with 2.3 kids, (now an endangered species on the island), they are much more independant and educated as to what they want to experience on their holiday. The internet offers a rich depository of information and reviews and if you are not online with an Instagram page, you might as well not exist in their world, as smartphones play an increasingly important part in their lives. It is estimated that by 2020 over 90% of all online traffic will travel via smartphones. If you want to promote your business and engage with tourists theses days, you must have an active online presence, as tourists now use Google maps, Facebook and Whatsapp messages instead of PR’s and telephone calls, to locate and book an attraction or business. However for valid reasons of their own, traditional Ibicenco businesses have been slow to grasp the fast pace of the social media world, where the majority of modern Europe hangs out these days.
In general, these social media Tourists seem not to find the traditional Ibiza restaurants, bars and shops with their 70’s styled furnishings, menus and souvenirs, appealing anymore. They are looking for a modern tourist product, that reflects their healthy, organic and fast paced digital lifes. Speaking to workers on the ground, they are all in agreement that the tourist visiting Ibiza today wants everything now and do not like to be kept waiting, unlike previous laidback generations. They are more demanding, but if they are expected to pay 4 to 5 star prices, they want the service and quality to match, and this is not what they are receiving in Ibiza, as service is at best 3 star, due to the overcrowded restaurant and bar market which pays service staff poorly. The only reason many service staff stay in Ibiza, is to party after work in some of the Worlds best clubs and private villas but that scene is intense and takes its toll on the rookies.
Sadly, unless the local restaurants and bars that depend on the tourist market, can tailor a product to the new tourist dynamic, then they will die – a real case of adapt to survive. I have noticed a number of new businesses in Ibiza, that are performing well, especially in San Antonio where they have new shop fittings and sell a modern product, not the same old same old that has been offered for the past 40 years. Ibiza is in transition, and it needs to catch up with the times and offer a product the tourist wants, as the evidence is suggesting that while the fish are here, they are not biting on the bait that’s out there. Over in Playa Den Bossa, the beaches and beds are empty, simply because the price to book ratio is overvalued. Don’t forget that all of the Hotels in PDB started life in the 70’s and 80’s as basic 3 star family hotels, I can’t remember the last new build there. The old expression mutton dressed as lamb springs to mind and how long these hotels can keep charging 5 star rates is debatable.
Its now evident that the mass tourism market is wary of spending in Ibiza, and in my opinion it’s because the market is overpriced. Many more tourists, especially Spanish ones, are making shorter but more frequent trips to the island. Weekend getaways, where if flights are timed correctly, a one night hotel, AirBnB or friends sofa stay, will suffice for a Friday to Sunday weekend party. A new lobby group, called Musica, is calling for special protection of Ibiza’s tourist clubbing industry. The group which appears to have professional backing, wants to ensure that the island does not lose its appeal for the clubbing tourist now attracted more to the EDM show market, with the underground scene in decline after the fall of Space. Another fact Ibiza needs to wake up to, is that the island cannot continue to sustain the amount of tourists that are arriving, especially from an environmental viewpoint. The challenge to find a modern and balanced tourist model that will serve the island for the next 40 years, is in my opinion, the greatest one facing the islands tourism industry right now.