Ibiza’s hopes of a summer party dashed by the upsurge in the Covid crisis


As the holiday season is in full swing, the bars around Ibiza’s Platja d’en Bossa are expected to be filled with young revelers who descend on the Spanish island each summer to soak up its famous party atmosphere.

But at Murphy’s, a short walk from the beach, a member of staff tries to coax passers-by as a few tables scattered with tourists sip beers and tinto de verano to the sound of lively house music.

Alex Sasaki, the co-owner, had high hopes after a ‘really bad’ 2020 when the bar could only open for a month amid a strict coronavirus lockdown. This summer got off to a good start with a surge of young Dutch visitors, followed by an increase in arrivals from the UK when the UK government put Ibiza and the rest of the Balearic Islands on its open ‘green’ list, which coincided. with the European football championships this summer. .

“It was good mainly because of the euros,” said Sasaki, 31. “The bars were full even in the afternoon.”

The arrival of the British – who traditionally represent 40% of foreign visitors to Ibiza – has given local businesses hope for a return to normal after 18 months of misery, before the carpet was torn from them again.

Young tourists on the usually busy Platja d’en Bossa beach © Zowy Voeten / Getty Images

A boom in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks that has started in Mallorca has led the Netherlands to advise against travel to the Balearic Islands and the United Kingdom to downgrade the islands on its “amber” list which requires the unvaccinated to be quarantine on their return. With cruel irony, the new rules that went into effect on Monday coincided with England’s ‘freedom day’, when a series of restrictions were lifted.

“It was a huge disappointment for us,” Sasaki said of the decision. “We want all tourists to come back.

At the Bull Bar Tavern, hostess Dunia El Moutchou said she feared the impact, especially after a scuffle lasting a few weeks of trading raised hopes. Daily income, which dropped to € 600 last summer, has jumped to € 4,000 recently, above even pre-2019 pandemic levels. “It destroyed us because we don’t know what is happening. is going to happen week to week, “she said.

For those who booked a vacation before the rules changed, a decision had to be made.

Sipping a mojito at the Bull Bar as the summer sun was setting, Dutch college student Fam Wilderink said she and her friends had a “blackout” two days before their trip as they saw the rates of infection increase. “We were like, ‘Do we have to do this? “. . . because the situation was gradually getting worse, ”said the 21-year-old, citing the possible need for quarantine on her return.

Dutch student Fam Wilderink
Dutch student Fam Wilderink worries she may have to be quarantined when she returns home © Ian Mount / FT

But Tara Hunt, a visitor from Birmingham, had no such quarantine concerns – like most UK visitors who spoke to the Financial Times. “We were never going to change our plans,” she said. “We have been in a pandemic for over a year and we are out of it.”

Poppy Canny, a 20-year-old influencer, agreed the vacation was a necessity. “I have had so many vacations canceled in the past two years: Ibiza (twice), Amsterdam, Paris, America, Bali, New Zealand,” she said, adding that she also refused to to get vaccinated. “I am young and healthy, I have no health complications, I am not going to die,” she said.

Yet infection rates are increasing throughout the island chain. The 14-day incidence rate in the Balearic Islands fell from 114 per 100,000 at the start of the month to 692 on July 21, to 1,833 for the 20-29 age group. The number of active cases in Ibiza nearly tripled in just 10 days, to over 1,750. This week alone, the Balearic government announced that the opening hours of bars and restaurants would be reduced in the face of the growing threat. .

For Ibiza’s hotel industry, the effect has been severe but uneven, said Ana Gordillo, head of the island’s hotel lobby group. The high end of the market has maintained high occupancy rates since the start of the season, but the change in leadership has resulted in cancellations at hotels that rely on the package travel market.

“One more year like last year would be catastrophic,” Gordillo said.

EasyJet plane from UK prepares to land at Ibiza airport
An easyJet plane from the UK prepares to land at Ibiza Airport. The UK has downgraded the island to its ‘orange’ list, reaching the number of visitors © Zowy Voeten / Getty Images

Sasaki at Murphy’s said revenues were down 60 to 70% from pre-pandemic levels. Just up the street, Sebastián Acosta reduced the opening hours of his tattoo parlor as the number of clients dried up.

“A few tattoos, two piercings. . . five people all day, ”he said, lamenting the loss of the groups of young British men who would visit him after a day of drinking, one of whom would suffer the consequences of losing that day’s bet. . “Five guys, 10 € each, a tattoo on the buttocks,” he explained.

One of the main attractions of the island are the giant superclubs such as the Pasha, where thousands of revelers dance the night away. But the clubs have been closed since the start of the pandemic, the reopening scheduled for the end of the month also being questioned.

“We have had a good number of years riding the wave,” said José Luis Benítez, head of the island’s nightlife federation. “Last year we handled it well, but this year we didn’t see it coming. We will see next year who is able to open and who cannot.

The beach bar at Bora Bora Ibiza club in Platja d’en Bossa can still serve drinks, but the ban on opening the dance floor had been devastating, manager Jesús Sainz Hernández said. The club and adjoining VIP area accounted for more than half of the revenue, he said, adding: “I hope it will be a year of survival and 2022 the year of recovery.”

At Murphy’s, Sasaki has already readjusted his ambitions for this summer. “If we break even, we are happy,” he said.

Displaying a half-full glass attitude worthy of a party island, he added, “But next year will be really, really huge.”

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