The luxurious 'Anything Can Happen Suite' at Ushuaïa Beach Hotel
In the 2010's, the impact of higher quality hotels, led by Ushuaïa, changed the Ibizan landscape permanently. In this feature, Johnny Lee turns away from clubs and looks at how increasing accommodation standards might impact behaviour.
Last summer global travel company Thomas Cook reported that the average age of tourists visiting Ibiza was on the rise. The reason? Hotel, club, café, bar and restaurant prices are now so expensive that young British millennials are choosing to party in cheaper resorts like Croatia and Greece. Factor in the new tourist tax, which recently doubled, and a trip to the world's summer party capital is now totally out of the question for a entire generation of young ravers.
That's the story the mainstream media are peddling, but is it really true? The short answer is: Yes.
Our estimate is that the average age of Ibiza customers has been rising by about one year - per year - for the last 10 years. As a direct result, clubbing tourism on the White Isle is down - some say by as much as 40%. Why? Think about it: who wants to jump around in a dark super club every night of the week? Potentially a younger market. Kids in their late teens and early 20s. And as that younger market slowly dissipates about the Mediterranean, so do nightclub attendances in Ibiza.
And yet, according to official figures, Ibiza is busier than ever. Tourist numbers were up by 6% in 2017 and 2018 is expected to be another bumper year. But if tourism is booming and nightclub attendances are in decline, what are holidaymakers doing when they land in Ibiza?
Clubbing is still an option for the island's maturing clientele, but it's no longer the only option. After all, it's only natural that peoples tastes change as they get older. Rather than partying at Amnesia for the duration of their holiday, today's tourist hordes are just as likely to dine out on Monday, charter a boat on Tuesday, book into a wellness retreat on Wednesday and visit a beach club on Thursday.
This is the new Ibiza week.
Backtrack a decade and things were vastly different. Like damned vampires shirking the daylight, ravers would head out after sundown and return to their hotel rooms in the early hours of the morning to sleep it off. Since then, party culture on the island has changed dramatically and the increase in the average age of tourists visiting the island is driving the shift.
After all, as the customer matures, so must the vendor. Cue an exponential increase in activities, attractions and experiences designed to suit a more mature audience. In San Antonio, for instance, traditionally the cheaper end of the market when it comes to booking accommodation, a slew of basic hotels are currently being recast in a more aspirational image.
When it comes to creating bespoke theme hotels, the Concept Hotel Group, who manage Santos Coast Suites in Playa d'en Bossa, are the makeover masters. Over the wintertime, they've reshaped the old El Coto Apartments near Cala Gracio beach into a adults-only, Havana-themed hotel. Over in San Antonio Bay, the same team are poised to open the new Vegas-themed Paradiso Art Hotel, which looks as if it belongs in a Hunter S. Thompson novel. Elsewhere in San Antonio Bay, the recently opened Hotel Las Mimosas sports a clean, white, boutique vibe. And how about the old Costa Mar Hotel near Golden Buddha Bar on the tip of the Sunset Strip, which will reopen later this month as well as the Wi-Ki-Woo Boutique Hotel? As you can see from the concept photos this one looks as mad as it sounds.
A glimpse into the new Wiki Woo Hotel.
Make no mistake, the aforementioned renovation work is not being carried out for the benefit of the Ibiza raver of yesteryear - those skinny, skint, cheese baguette eating, albino 20-somethings who enjoyed partying all night long at Ibiza's best nightclubs, before slinking back to their hotel rooms at 9am and hiding from view until the fear wore off. Instead, the renovation work is being pitched to a new kind of clientele. Customers who want to be seen drinking mojitos on their balcony and taking selfies down by the pool, rather than hiding away behind blackout curtains.
Indeed, across the island hotel repair and renovation is currently the standard theme. Interiors are being gutted, exteriors being remodelled to suit a more affluent, aspirational audience. Remember those little wooden bed frames with the piss-proof mattresses? They're being thrown out. Remember the damage deposit the receptionist hit you with when you checked in? It's been scrapped. Why? Because these days Ibiza is catering for respectable 30-somethings rather than twisted 20-somethings.
All of which seems entirely reasonable. Until you stop to consider how the mindset of those young 20-somethings who were partying in Ibiza in the late '90s might have been affected by their environment. After all, invest a little money in your facilities and offer a better quality of service and you tend to get a better customer in return. But for years Ibiza fed its youngest most impressionable customers cheap booze and promptly cursed them when they fell down and vomited in the street. Those same kids were sold beds in old, tired hotels and expected to indulge the rooms with a level of respect beyond that of the owners. No wonder that generation gained a reputation for mischief. And yet when the same faces took to the dancefloor at Space and Pacha their behaviour was unrecognisable in those venues. Why? Because when you treat your clients like superstars, they tend to behave accordingly.
The West End, whose days look numbered. Credit: The White Isle
Having created the perfect environment for misbehaviour, Ibiza became part of a self fulfilling prophecy that benefited no one, except, perhaps, the British tabloids. But now things are starting to change. Ibiza's clubs, bars, streets and hotels are refining their image and even in San Antonio the punters are harmonising accordingly.
Vandalism and groups of drunken idiots wandering around chanting football-style songs - you just don’t see that kind of behaviour anymore. Why? Because the tourists visiting Ibiza in 2018 are older and wiser, of course. That's the party line. The common conception. But what if environment was the primary shaper of human behaviour all along, not age? Maybe it sounds radical, but when you start investing in your facilities and stop talking down to tourists in a derogatory manner, then and only then will you start attracting the tourist you deserve
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