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What’s it like travelling in Europe at the moment? Thoughts from my Ibiza trip.

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Last week I flew to Ibiza from London City Airport to take a look at how air travel is adapting to the ‘new normal’ (whatever that is!).

I thought it was worth sharing some feedback about how tourism has adapted on the ground.  This clearly varies from country to country in Europe, although I imagine there will be broad similarities wherever you go.

During my stay in Ibiza I was told that the airport was operating at around 30% of its usual summer capacity:

Ibiza airport departues

This is a lot higher than what London City Airport is currently flying, but it still marks a huge capacity reduction from previous years, and should give you an idea of how little travel there currently is.  If Ibiza isn’t busy in July …..

Do you have to wear a face mask?

Masks are by and large the most significant change you will experience when travelling.

The parliament of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera) made wearing a mask compulsory in public just before our trip. This means that you are supposed to wear a mask whenever you are outside of your hotel except when at a beach, a pool or whilst eating.

Ibiza restaurant

In practise, however, it is not quite as strict.  On a walking tour of the old town it was effectively unnecessary to wear a mask, as there was practically no-one around:

Ibiza old town

The rule wasn’t strictly enforced at our hotel either, although staff were required to wear a mask at all times.  There was nobody to check that you are wearing yours when you move from the pool area to the lobby, for example, or anywhere else in the hotel.

On the whole, the mask requirement appears to be based on a common sense approach, which allows for a little flexibility when out and about.

Hotels are surprisingly normal

We stayed in an unbranded hotel at one end of Ibiza’s famous Playa d’en Bossa beach called Torre del Mar, which had recently re-opened after an extensive renovation.

Ibiza Torre del Mar

Occupancy was still fairly low, running at between 30% and 50%. However, it was surprising how normal it all felt.  Bar the plexiglass screens shielding the hotel reception:

Ibiza Torre del Mar checkin

……. as well as some distance markers on the floor:

Ibiza Torre del Mar reception

….. it all felt remarkably normal. The indoor spa with pool and a number of sauna and steam rooms were open:

Ibiza Torre del Mar spa

…. as was the pool and poolside restaurant:

Ibiza Torre del Mar pool

In my room there were even fewer things out of place. In fact, there wasn’t a single thing that had changed as far as I could tell, except perhaps that the hotel information was loaded onto an app rather than on paper or professionally printed.  It wasn’t clear if this was the hotel embracing a digital-first strategy or whether this was because of Covid-19, however.

Ibiza Torre del Mar room

In the hotel restaurant, single use paper menus were available although most people chose to scan the QR code and load the menu on their phone. Again, this wasn’t particularly disruptive.

Another minor change happened at checkout, where you would drop your keycards into a little box rather than handing them to hotel staff. I assume these keycards are then systematically cleaned, which isn’t much different from the ‘express checkout’ service you find at many hotels.

Ibiza Torre del Mar checkout

Out and about in Ibiza

In Ibiza, the biggest change is the lack of crowds. Whilst Ibiza isn’t a destination I would normally be attracted to – I’m not really someone who enjoys megaclubs with 10,000 other people – I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and welcoming the island is.

That said, whilst restaurants, shops and hotels are starting to re-open, many are still closed. Walk down the main strip and you’ll find long stretches with shuttered shops. Near the harbour, many restaurants are partially boarded up or still preparing to re-open. A lot of restaurants and bars will squirt some hand gel as you enter.

Nonetheless, unless you want to go clubbing, there is still a lot you can do.  Bars are permitted to open until 2am. You can still taste some of the spectacular local dishes and enjoy beaches and the Mediterranean. The vibe in Ibiza is the complete opposite of what I imagine it normally is: very relaxed.  It really does feel like you have the whole place to yourself.

Whilst this is the death knell for many Ibizan businesses which survive on the huge number of tourists who arrive, it makes it very pleasant for those who are there right now. On one evening we had dinner at Pikes, the legendary Ibizan hotel / restaurant / bar / club. Whilst normally it would be absolutely packed, you can see how empty it is now:

Ibiza Pikes Pamelaand

Ibiza Pikes Pamela

…. although again, empty isn’t bad, just different.  It certainly lends itself to more of a VIP feel!

(The food at Pikes is fantastic, by the way, from Gordon Ramsay-trained head chef Lee Milne. The service, however, was out of this world – possibly the best service I have ever had: extremely casual but very, very good. I cannot it recommend highly enough!)

Conclusion

I was pleasantly surprised to find how little of the tourist experience has changed. It certainly felt like a privilege to experience the island during its quietest season in decades.

Precautions are in place but these are, on the whole, fairly unobtrusive. After four months of being grounded I certainly appreciated the whole experience a lot more – it has reminded me that travel is a distinct pleasure that many of us have the privilege of being able to afford.

(HFP travelled to Ibiza as the guest of London City Airport, BA CityFlyer and the Ibiza Tourism Board.)

Comments (98)

  • Jody says:

    We’re off to Ibiza in early October. Went last year for an 80’s/90’s festival, and tagged a few days on afterwards and liked it so much we’re going back.

    Unfortunately the hotel we were staying at (same one as last year) has decided to stay closed for the rest of the year, so they have moved us to another one in their chain, which is at Playa d’en Bossa. Supposedly an upgrade, although the trip advisor reviews aren’t as good for this hotel as the original one.

    No idea if it’s still the same, but when I checked a couple of weeks ago the prices for the easyjet flights were less than we had paid (and that wasn’t much). I was gutted!! Although can’t really complain, as have availed easyjet of 3 different trips now for next year from flights that were cancelled this year thanks to their generous policy of changing to almost any route at any time.

    Looking forward to our trip in October, the weather was perfect last year so fingers crossed.

  • Nick_C says:

    “London has virtually no coronavirus”

    Dangerous nonsense. My nephew has been furloughed since March. He lives in Docklands. He travels around London by Boris Bike and doesn’t use public transport. He’s been meeting people outside but socially distances. He’s been to shops, but not to pubs or restaurants.

    Last Friday, he noticed he had lost his sense of smell. He also had a slight cough, but so mild that he would normally have ignored it. He got tested on Friday, got his positive result the next day by text, and is now isolating. He is young, fit, and healthy. He will be fine.

    But Covid 19 is still around. People are still catching it. Some people are still dying from it. The numbers may be low. But this is no time for complacency.

    • Rhys says:

      ‘Virtually no’ doesn’t mean absolutely zero 🙂

      • MKB says:

        Yes. In all aspects of life, one should never extrapolate from personal experience. You may be an outlier; you may be typical.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        But psychologically it’s a very similar message and that’s why its dangerous

        • Rob says:

          No it isn’t. Time for a quick Open University course on statistics for you I think.

          • BS says:

            I am a statistician. I agree psychologically it is almost identical, and dangerous.

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            Time for a quick OU course on heuristics and behaviour for YOU, if you think people interpret statistics and modify their behaviour accordingly in an accurate or rational way. 😉

    • TGLoyalty says:

      It’s not a dangerous statement at all Rob very clearly said it’s about 8 per 100k population. Your relative is one of those 8, since he’s been tested he will be part of the stat.

      • mutley says:

        Complacency is a continuous struggle that we all have to fight- Jack Nicklaus

      • Nick_C says:

        Its dangerous if you believe there is no risk of catching Covid 19 in London, and consequently don’t take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of infections and dissuade others from doing so.

        Nationally, testing increased by 7% over the last 11 days. The number of positive cases detected increased by 15% in the same period (from 551 to 635, 7 day rolling average).

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Lower risk does not equal no risk.

        • Michael Jennings says:

          There was virtually no coronavirus in Melbourne two months ago. It has since come back hard. Complacency about this disease is very foolish.

  • MKB says:

    Ibiiza Town always had a chilled vibe, apart from the exuberant gay clubs. I’m wondering what San Antonio was like.

    • Rhys says:

      Are you sure about that? Not sure I’d call clubs with 5,000+ people ‘chilled’…..

      • Peter North says:

        Have you experienced Number Five Ibiza in the port? Not 5000 people but chilled

  • Jim says:

    Currently in Bulgaria in Sveti Vlas (near to Sunny Beach and a bit more upmarket but still incredibly cheap. Everything is open here (even clubs) and nobody really bothering with masks.

  • the_real_a says:

    I rented a car and drive around the island a couple of years ago. San Antonio is of course party central, but the rest of the island is absolutely gorgeous. Plenty of solitary coves and beaches to watch the sunsets or take a picnic. Local markets in the center of the island are a particular highlight.

  • Chris Heyes says:

    Went to Ibiza last year (for a Daughters Wedding on the Beach) We all went took over most of a Hotel All inclusive
    Except us we went B & B a complex away from the rest i was pleasantly surprised the complex was quiet and reasonable although had a pool & Children’s pool. and children’s club
    Breakfast not good though, had one meal there not good either but accommodation not 4 star but adequate. was only 10min walk to party’s hotel
    I wouldn’t go to Ibiza again (but if we had to would seek out same complex) Ibiza isn’t for a 72 year old lol Sorry if any of you was after seats on BA Gatwick or Manchester end July beginning Aug lol