Ibiza is perhaps the best-known Balearic island, attracting everyone from celebrities who arrive on superyachts, to planeloads of young British and German tourists looking for a good time. An underground dance party scene that arrived in the 1980s has matured decades later into an internationally renowned tourism industry all of its own.
But thanks to a summer characterized by Covid quarantines, shuttered nightclubs and canceled flights — the Balearic Islands, alongside other European party hotspots across the Mediterranean — are suffering from an abysmal hangover without even having enjoyed the night before.
A series of laws designed to curb alcohol excess in the tourist hubs of San Antonio, Ibiza and Magaluf and Playa de Palma on the island of Mallorca, including banning happy hours, party boats promoting drunken cruises and pub crawls, were introduced by the regional government.
Rosana Morillo, general director of tourism for the Balearic Islands, tells that the current situation is being used as a opportunity to consider further ways to change the destination’s reputation, while some, like Ibiza’s Juan Miguel Costa hope that clubbing will return, but balanced with other highlights like heritage, culture, beaches and sports.
Either way, in the age of coronavirus, the future of the party vacation destination lies in the balance.
The summer of 2020 hasn’t been a total write off for the Spanish islands, although northern Europe lockdowns and travel bans, particularly in Germany and the UK, kept most of their visitors away in the spring.
In June, the island of Mallorca successfully ran a pilot plan for German visitors, which says Morillo, allowed it to be marketed as a safe destination.
By July, the introduction of travel corridors made weeks away in Spain, Greece and other European countries a possibility for British travelers ready to brave the flight, and the Balaerics managed to clock up 1 million visitors in July.
“After losing our two main markets, the flow of visitors has been really close to zero,” says Morillo.
The result, she says, is the islands will likely lose about 30% of its annual income.The bustling Mallorca strip was laid bare. Ibiza’s super clubs were boarded up.
While bars can open in Spain, so long as they maintain social distancing and don’t allow dancing, many businesses decided it wasn’t financially viable.
“Most of them [in Ibiza] decided not to open, that was the first impact,” says Costa, adding that those that did had only around 45 to 50% of the visitors they’d had the year before.
“It’s a rough year for holidays in general,” says British traveler Jack Painter, a big fan of house music and a long-time visitor to Ibiza.
Because even if virus cases dwindle again, and countries lift their quarantines, a clubbing vacation is largely out of the question in the age of Covid.
Live events and gigs are off the table. Clubs remain closed. Gathering in crowds of hundreds or thousands seems unthinkable.
Costa is keen to emphasize Ibiza’s suitability as a family vacation destination, and its beautiful nature and heritage.
“At the beginning of next season, there will be places which have been closed for 18 months, and that’s a long time without any money,” says Costa.
Business owners can get some help with the local government and the central government, as can furloughed workers. But despite his fears about te future, tourism officials are confident things will change, if and when a vaccine becomes readily available.
“This is just 2020 and we have to forget it,” says Costa.