Something is changing in San Antonio de Portmany and its bay. More and more people are beginning to talk of the rebirth that will happen (and which, according to them, is already beginning to happen) in one of the key tourism enclaves in Ibiza. They also say that this area is on its way to becoming revalued by public and private investments. The entrepreneurs involved in this revaluation agree that the hotel improvement is similar to the hotels that have changed Playa d’en Bossa over the last decade. As another of Ibiza’s prime spots, it has gained new momentum, thanks to the change of aesthetics and the concept of many of its hotel establishments. Now it is San Antonio’s turn, along with the coast that stretches from Es Pinet to Port des Torrent, in the municipality of Sant Josep de sa Talaïa, a homogeneous tourist area that has been receiving visitors for more than sixty years.
In recent seasons, some establishments have improved their facilities, and other hotels are in the process of transformation. Two cases in particular stand out, on opposite sides of the bay. In Punta Pinet, Sol House Ibiza is the Meliá chain’s gamble on San Antonio. It was completely renovated in 2016, with the latest technological innovations and daily DJ sets by the 9th floor swimming pool. In a short space of time it has become just one of the island’s musical epicentres. Across the bay, the Abrat, one of the classic hotels in the area, is undergoing a change that will raise its level from three to four stars, projecting a modern, fresh and youthful image that adapts to the tourism that always has filled its rooms.
The new range of accommodation that San Antonio is making available to tourists from all over the world is also of interest to the local authorities, who are in charge of exporting the island’s image in the international fairs of Madrid, London or Berlin. “The next few years are key to knowing which direction the island’s tourism will take. We, in the Town Hall, are observing that businesses and hotel groups that were not previously in San Antonio are now planning to open in our municipality. We believe they will be a breath of fresh air for San Antonio’s tourism industry and, above all, diversify the type of client that stays with us on their holidays, “explained José Antonio Ferragut, Tourism Councillor for San Antonio, aware that better hotels are necessary so that the local economy doesn’t become stagnant.
Companies such as Concept Hotel Group are starting to invest in Ibiza’s west side, where some of the best sunsets on the planet happen each day. This hotel group’s plans have been responsible for the boom that Playa d’en Bossa has enjoyed, where they have successfully created three conceptual hotels: Santos, Tropicana and Dorado. The company is now expanding into San Antonio and its bay, where it is reforming two more establishments which will open next year. Diego Calvo, Executive President and one of the partners who founded the Concept Hotel Group just five years ago, said: “We are talking about an internationally renowned area, whose reputation has been damaged by it’s previous tourism offer. San Antonio is ripe for improvement, especially in its hotel industry. This area has begun to reform its range of hotels, a renewal, that, if it focuses on sustainability, will be very positive because it will attract a client with greater purchasing power, who will thus spend more. And, as a result, it will start to end the thing that has caused most damage to San Antonio: the dreaded all-inclusive. This has degraded the services sector the most, as well negatively influencing the image of San Antonio and the coexistence between tourists and residents. The client who books our products will have bed and breakfast only, so they will spend more on services outside the hotel. This will have a positive impact on Ibiza’s economy. ”
The group of which José Antonio Ferragut has started a project to change the image of San Antonio as a byword for drunken tourists. “With the changes we are preparing, we want to reinforce the image of a spirit that has not been lost in San Antonio, even though it has been in the background: an open place where, in addition to our fantastic beaches, tourists can enjoy all kinds of events, live music or outdoor sports. In addition, we believe the world that has no frontiers, and we want to welcome people from as many nationalities as possible. It is always positive to be a popular and respected destination in more than one market “, says Ferragut, who hopes that San Antonio and the bay can be consolidated in the near future a place where tourists of all types can mix together: from families who come to rest for a couple of days, to the younger crowd who seek healthy leisure, or couples / groups of middle-aged friends searching for gastronomic or cultural experiences.
Juanjo Planells, representative of the Hotel Federation said “San Antonio and its bay, that extends southwestrly from the town, are waiting to be declared mature tourist destinations, meaning “large public investment that would allow the infrastructure to match the efforts being made in the hotel sector”. Many of the family hostels that are still open in the centre of town started fifty years ago. For more than a decade, more establishments of this type (now run by the children or grandchildren of its founders) have been totally reformed, earning the continued loyalty of people who come to the island in search of emotions and experiences that go beyond the combination of sun, beach and alcohol. One of these lifelong businesses that has embraced change is the Florencio, property of Planells, where for twenty years has attracted a desirable type of tourist: people eager to travel the island by foot or by bicycle. “I think these hostels,” said Planells, “are going to coexist perfectly with the new hotels that are going to open in the area because both of us are betting on quality.” A quality that the hoteliers’ representative does not relate directly to luxury: “You can give good service in modern and charming facilities without having to raise prices or raise a hotel’s rating.”
One of the establishments that best represent this change of trend is the Marina Playa hotel. Located in front of the beach of es Puetó, on the edge of the municipality, it began a process of gradual refurbishment almost a decade ago. It is now a charming building, made up of studios which emphasise modern design and follow Mediterranean lines, where white and blue hues rule. “In Typic we know that we attract a certain type of clientele depending on what is offered to customers. Since it’s refurbishment, the Marina Playa has secured the type of tourist that we believe contributes a lot to the rest of this zone. They are people with very diverse tastes and medium-high purchasing power. They are repeaters, but not only because they fall in love with the facilities, “said Alejandro Caínzos, one of those responsible for Typic Hotels.
For Caínzos, “service quality and the atmosphere are extras which guarantee the loyalty of this kind of tourist, those who seek to feel at ease and who prefer simplicity to ostentation.” One of the things of which Cainzos is most proud of in Marina Playa is the rooftop terrace, which has been completely renovated. A peaceful place from which to contemplate the sun setting over the islets in the bay of San Antonio, with a fine cocktail in the hand and fantastic music in the background.
Andy McKay believes that San Antonio and the bay do not need “too many five-star hotels to become a leading destination.” This Briton, who has been living in Ibiza for more than two decades, has two hotel businesses in the Sanantonian municipality. In both (Ibiza Rocks Hotel and Pikes Hotel) music – especially rock music – has been present for the last twelve years. Each summer, some of the best Anglo-Saxon bands (Arctic Monkeys, The Prodigy, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs or Kasabian, among others) have appeared at Ibiza Rocks. However, 2017 has seen the final round of live concerts at this wonderful venue. McKay and his team have decided to stop bringing top draw groups to the island due to legal restrictions (which require the installation of sound limiters) and bureaucratic requirements (regarding technical requirements for setting up a large format concert stage) that make it practically impossible to organize a stable concert programme in any municipality of Ibiza, without running the risk that the local authorities can stop or suspend the concert at the last moment, even though the dates are booked and promoted well in advance.
Despite having to give up the most romantic part of his business venture, McKay sees a bright future for San Antonio as a quality tourist destination. McKay believes that entrepreneurs in the area must change their mind-set towards tourists: “I do not think we are attracting a bad type of tourist. I often say this: if you treat your customers like wild dogs, then your customers will behave like wild dogs. We have to start treating the customer, not much better than we think they deserve, but a little bit better. It is clear that twenty-year-olds who come to San Antonio in search of fun will not demand the comforts of a five-star hotel, but if we treat them a little better, they will behave in a way in an unexpected way. Little by little, the tourist model of this wonderful area will change, towards quality and not quantity.”
McKay acknowledges that the prices for Ibiza’s nightlife are in an inflated bubble. Therefore, he believes that the new species of hotels in San Antonio should “gamble on rates that are fair and reasonable: the last few years have given us a paradox where it is cheaper to rent a boat between two couples for a week than to book two hotel rooms for six nights. That’s why hotels should be unique and diversify their offer with pleasure: if you only offer beds, you will never be able to compete with the cheapest accommodation provider in the world: AirBnB. He continued “the next ten years are going to be THE decade of San Antonio. It will be very important to take smart decisions that take into account the coexistence of both tourists and residents, because if a feeling of tourism-phobia appears it could frighten away future investors. For McKay, it is important to update tourist traditions that have lasted for more than half a century.
The first tourists who arrived on the island in the 50s and 60s entered Ibiza through the Portus Magnus, a name given by the Romans to this bay, one of the safest and most spectacular in the Mediterranean, currently divided between the municipalities of Sant Josep and Sant Antoni. Both municipalities have recently presented a project to invest 20 million euros in this coast, which will be pedestrianised from end to the other, thanks to a promenade that will extend from Port des Torrent to Cala Gració. “This project will be very important because it will increase the value of one of the most beautiful areas in our municipality,” says Josep Marí Ribas, “Agustinet”. As Mayor of Sant Josep he also indicated that among the other projects to be undertaken in the bay is a study into the improving the sanitation of the hotels in Cala de Bou.
“We have a unique bay on the Spanish Mediterranean and it is necessary to take care of it. Politicians can do this on one side, but businesspeople have to their bit in improving our environment. That is why the development of new hotel projects in the bay area is very positive. “explained Agustinet. He appreciates that the Cala de Bou hotel renovation project follows in the footsteps of other projects that have worked so well at the other end of the municipality. “Port des Torrent is on its way to becoming one of Ibiza’s most important holiday areas, just as Playa d’en Bossa has been over the last decade. ”
The two hotels that Concept will open in 2018 are located on the two edges of the bay. Paradiso will be in Port des Torrent, to the south, a hotel that will fuse contemporary art and tourism, creating a great cultural space that will exude life and creativity, thanks to the exhibitions that will be held in its reception hall and the artworks that will be hung in each of the hotel’s suites. Cubanito is in Cala Gracio, to the north, the hotel guests will be transported to vintage Miami’ as soon as they enter the hotel. It is inspired by the fifties Art-Deco that dominates the most emblematic streets of Little Havana, the small town that was born in the middle of this great American city, thanks to the exiled Cubans, who brought inspiration from their island, so close and yet so far away at the same time. The taste of Cuba will be very present in this hotel: each room will pay tribute to musicians, actors and artists born on the Caribbean island.
With these two conceptual hotels in operation, Diego Calvo indicates that they will improve the average level of tourist accommodation in San Antonio, as well as providing more cultural options for residents in the local area: “By being conceptual hotels that host artistic and musical events, which will also attract local residents to enjoy our facilities, Cubanito and Paradiso will receive a lot of media repercussion, which will allow us to attract another type of customer, who is between 30 and 55 years, interested in fashion, music or art. This revolution will be possible if San Antonio continues to move towards its rebirth as a holiday paradise, maintaining all the charm that led a small fishing village to become one of Ibiza’s economic engines.
“I’m in love with San Antonio.” With this phrase Javier Anadón begins to analyze the transformative process that is taking place in the municipality’s tourist model. This entrepreneur, born in Navarre and settled in Ibiza for more than forty years, has all kinds of businesses in the area: one of the island’s main references for electronic music (Mambo), restaurants (Villa Mercedes), a hostel in a privileged enclave to contemplate one of the most spectacular sunsets on the island (La Torre) and one of the island’s most charming beach bars (Cala Gracioneta). “The will to change the way of doing things exists,” explains Anadón, “and I know this all to well because I’ve been improving and reinventing my businesses for more than fifteen years. Entrepreneurs have a lot of responsibility for the type of town we build. This is the responsibility of everyone, not just politicians, and the tourism companies have to take care of the surroundings in which they operate so as to continue generating wealth. Any old thing just won’t do anymore.”
Anadón believes that San Antonio (and the bay, where he will soon open a small hotel which has been converted into suites) will continue to be revaluated because people are putting money on ” authenticity, not luxury”. “I am very happy because my businesses function better every and every year. There is no magic formula, it is the result of hours and hours of hard work, passion and above all, the will to do things in style”, says the businessman, who defines himself as “a lover of simple things.” “The key,” says Anadón, “is to attract more and more middle to upper-class tourists, those between 30 and 45 years old, who want to have fun, but respect the place where they will spend their holiday.. Nightlife has to respect the welfare of the local residents. In addition, these people, who look for more than parties, are the ones who come to Cala Salada, eat the traditional dishes of Ibiza in the many good restaurants we have in San Antonio, or get lost in Santa Ines, one of my favourite places on the island. All of this without forgetting younger tourists or those who come as a family.”
This tourism veteran welcomes the arrival of new businesses in the area and the revitalization that, both small operators and large hotel groups, are doing in many of their establishments. For example, he emphasised that the Piscis Park, one of the hotels Sol Hotel chain has in this area, is being refurbished this winter. “It is an 800-place hotel that will stop working with all-inclusive offers. That’s fantastic news because the level of its customers will go up markedly. Stopping all-inclusive in the hotel industry is essential for ending trash tourism as well as regenerating a neighbourhood like the West End. When I came to the island in the 70s, those streets were the envy of the whole of Ibiza. “Anadón, who still works side by side with his sons in his company, Mambo Group, dreams that San Antonio, the place he most identifies himself with when asked where he is from, regains the essence that made him it the most magical place in Ibiza, the place that began to discover the sweet taste of tourism back in the 60s; “If we continue working in this direction and supporting our leaders, regardless of their political allegiances, we will be able to consolidate San Antonio and the bay as the place that everyone will want to visit. We must take advantage of the fact that Ibiza is on the crest of the wave “.