In the fourth installment of our Ibiza 2018 mid season report, we cast our eye over a cultural issue for the island of Ibiza, the contentious subject of The West End.
As we all know, there is a concerted drive to rid San Antonio of The West End in its present format and all its associated anti social problems. For a certain generation and culture, The West End holds a special endearment, fun, happy holiday memories in the sun, meeting like minded people from around the globe and all enjoying themselves together. The West End concept was born of the 80’s, an era where package holidays and tour operators dominated. There was no internet, commercial flights, mobile phones or Google Maps, when you look back on those times now, you ask yourself how did we survive in a foreign land without our digital tools of discovery. But the West End was like your home Embassy abroad, instead of civil servants and Ferrero Rocher, it was an Embassy that more resembled the antics of Fawlty Towers, but with copious amounts of alcohol, music and drugs included. Basil and Manuel “Havin’ it large” on the streets of Ibiza.
Sadly, that era and the vehicle it travelled in, is now in its final death throes. We have seen the fall of Space, and a new Empire rise from its ashes. We have witnessed EDM overtake the underground genre as the predominate music culture on the island and things have become a lot more corporate and restrictive. The West End, once a Republic of Pirates that the island now wants to rid itself of, as buccaneers don’t care about the whole, they are only interested in the individual and personal gain. With a shortage of accommodation on the island, more Spanish people of voting age, are beginning to settle the streets surrounding the West End and they are not liking the conditions they and their families have to live in. Think about it for one minute, if the same unsociable behaviour was to happen in your hometown every night, would you not want it to stop? It is this voting block of locals that are favourites to return the current government in power, if they deliver on their election promise to rid their streets and homes of the “hooligan” element that is attracted to it. Right now, they are favourites to do so, and secure a second term in office as their reward.
So after two years of trying to starve the West End of its oxygen, by restricting the business hours the unscruplious gangs of rogues have to plunder the pockets of the naive tourists that wander in there, there has been a noticeable effect. Arrests of pickpockets and prostitutes have been made and the sale of laughing gas banned. In general the streets are quiter, the plan to change the model of tourism is working, much to the anger of some of the established business owners who are suffering in there – unwilling to change or accommodate a democratic mandate. All their complaints and campaigning to return to the old model are falling on deaf ears, even the politicians in opposition to the new laws are beginning to realise that the game is up for The West End, as they watch with greedy eyes, the growth in the 4 star market. It won’t be too long before these, run with the fox and chase with the hound style politicians, change their tune and claim they had an important part to play in its cleanup. Only last week one the biggest feeder Hotels for the type of tourist that frequented the West End, the 366 room Piscis Park Hotel, announced that it would be upgrading to four star stating that the West End has no future in its current form and that it is “optimistic” regarding the new tourism model for the resort. This sizeable €10 investment has put a different spin on things and it went as far to praise the local government for wanting to improve its product.
In my opinion, after a series of lost battles, the war to retain the West End its traditional tourist trap guise is lost. The old adage of, if you can’t beat them join them, looks the only option remaining for the business owners that are planted there. Rather than look at the negatives, they should consider the positives. Some are in control of the property they stand on, and that real estate is raising in value, as a new tourism model appears on the horizon. They now have the opportunity to change their business, to upgrade like Piscis Park. By 2019 there will be an extra 500 four star rooms in San Antonio replacing the 2 star ones and that will bring a different type of client into the West End. If only taking the British businesses in the West End as an example, I would much prefer to see the fare that is found on the trendy, Michelin starred streets of London, or any other modern urban city in the UK replicated in Ibiza. British culture, whether the locals admit it or not, has contributed greatly to the islands identity, both in style, infulence and finance. A fine example of a British business adapting to changing times, is Ocean Beach, which took over an unsuccessful old restaurant in the bay and turned it into a thriving business while altering the timeline that tourists went out in San An, which in turn fed into the quieter West End streets later in the night.
Can a daytime business model work in The West End? Not everybody wants to party to 6am and I feel todays modern tourist is looking for something different. So can the business owners in The West End adapt to that new model, just like Ocean Beach did with its business, setting a new daytime trend for others to follow? The last thing we want to see is British culture departing the West End. They are a clever and resourceful lot, especially in business, where they are media savvy and well connected to the 4 star market and higher. They have a lot to offer and the local economy should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A strong and vibrant UK culture that reflects more of its civilised nature, rather than its hooligan one, is what The West End needs to retain. The question is can the current British businesses there respond to the challenge. If they or unwilling or unable to do so, then it might be time for them to move on and hand over the West End to those that want to invest into a brighter and more harmonious future.