Hundreds of sweaty clubbers are crammed onto at the Glitterbox dance floor, soaking up the grooves as one of Ibiza’s biggest party nights gets into full swing.
Laser beams scatter overhead. Electronic beats intensify. Arms are held aloft and the energy rushes higher and higher in anticipation. And then, ahead of the next thunderous bass drop, a divine moment of silence.
That was 2019. This year, it’s just been the silence.
It’s still summer season on Spain’s Balearic Islands and, if it wasn’t for coronavirus, the hard partying would normally be in full swing, with young Europeans packing the sandy beaches, bars and super clubs of Ibiza.
“There’s no tourism at all, now, on our island,” says Juan Miguel Costa, Ibiza’s tourism director. “Just a few people coming just for a few days.”
“We had a very bad summer. And the thing is that we will have a very, very bad winter.”
Ibiza is perhaps the best-known Balearic island, attracting everyone from celebrities who arrive on superyachts, to planeloads of young British and German tourists looking for a good time. An underground dance party scene that arrived in the 1980s has matured decades later into an internationally renowned tourism industry all of its own.
But thanks to a summer characterized by Covid quarantines, shuttered nightclubs and canceled flights — the Balearic Islands, alongside other European party hotspots across the Mediterranean — are suffering from an abysmal hangover without even having enjoyed the night before.
And with no prospect of the fun returning anytime soon, the situation is inevitably prompting locals who rely on income generated by the islands’ nightlife to reconsider a future without it.
To some extent, it was already on the cards with plans to try move away from the reputation for alcohol excess and hedonism. Back in January 2020, the Balearics pledged to team new regulations with a conscious shift towards “sustainable and respectful tourism,” aiming to force “real change in the tourist model of these destinations.”
A series of laws designed to curb alcohol excess in the tourist hubs of San Antonio, Ibiza and Magaluf and Playa de Palma on the island of Mallorca, including banning happy hours, party boats promoting drunken cruises and pub crawls, were introduced by the regional government.
Rosana Morillo, general director of tourism for the Balearic Islands, tells CNN Travel that the current situation is being used as a opportunity to consider further ways to change the destination’s reputation, while some, like Ibiza’s Juan Miguel Costa hope that clubbing will return, but balanced with other highlights like heritage, culture, beaches and sports.
Either way, in the age of coronavirus, the future of the party vacation destination lies in the balance.