With the global threat of terrorism scaring millions of tourists away from holiday spots like Turkey, Tunisia, and Egypt, Ibiza and its neighbouring Balearic islands have seen a huge increase in tourism this year.
Last year saw 13 million visitors overrun Mallorca and Menorca, an island chain with just 1.1 million inhabitants. And that’s only been expected to increase this year, likely making it Ibiza’s busiest yet.
And even with the recent “Sustainable Tourism Tax" that went into effect on July 1st — which levies a fee of 50 cents per person per night for camping and hostels, €2 for luxury hotels and upmarket apartments, halving in cost after eight nights — the island just can’t keep up.
There are environmental concerns, specifically about clean water, which is in short supply. And despite how much of the local economy relies on tourism, fears about the island hitting a breaking point are becoming a reality, and seem imminent.
So we reached out to Department of Tourism head Vicente Torres to find out exactly what the tourism tax does, how they plan on coping with water demands, and what they think about Ibiza’s busiest year yet.
Can the island handle the constant increases in tourism? No, we have a limited capacity being an island. Not only regarding capacity of people, but also regarding capacity of potable water, other important infrastructures such as roads, treatment and desalination plants, etc. Also, we have to mention matters such as the noise or pollution.
How does the increase in tourism negatively impact the environment? More people on the islands means more people consuming our resources (water, environment…) Nowadays we have nearly 100,000 legal touristic beds and a registered population of 13,000 inhabitants, approximately. The island is just 572 km²; we cannot support much more increase in tourism.
Cala d'hort beach, image via
What is being done to protect the environment? The first thing we have done as a new government since we’ve arrived, was in January to approve a moratorium to build in certain areas. It is in process how to modify laws such as rustic territory law, touristic law, among others.
What does the tourism tax actually go towards? The tourism tax, which will start to be collected on the 1st July, hast the goal to pay projects in order to recover areas now unattended or that have been spoiled, among other things such as training to people that works in social projects.
The island is running out of water. Are tourists being encouraged to save water? Yes, they have always been encouraged to do it, but now there will be coming soon specific campaigns in order to make everybody aware of the problem, and visitors and residents really take care about water consumption.
Ocean Beach pool party, image via
What is the government doing to curb water waste? In some areas we have already started renewing water pipes, since we know that a 40 percent (approximately) of water is wasted due to the bad conditions of the pipes. There is also a prohibition of getting water out of wells is specific periods during the year. This is a very important work that we are trying to manage in the best and most effective way.
Is there a breaking point for the island? That is, how many is too many tourists? That’s one of the things on the table now. Not all institutions on the island have the same colour government. Therefore, it is necessary to arrive a consensus and fix a breaking point. It is a must that we need to solve and take a decision for the good of our future.
Chandler Shortlidge is the UK and European editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter. @ChandlerShort
Main image via