Expat British business owners have said new travel quarantine rules are a “lifeline” for the tourism industry in Ibiza.
Duane Lineker, owner of the O Beach Ibiza club, said the Spanish island has already lost nearly half of its normal five to six-month tourist season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Lineker, nephew of former England footballer Gary Lineker, argued it is the “right time” for British tourists to return to Ibiza.
“Even now post-lockdown with, the new normal restrictions in place, although most are necessary it is still making business very difficult,” he said.
“I think most businesses would be overjoyed not to lose money this year.”
He welcomed Friday’s changes to UK travel quarantine regulations meaning people visiting or returning from certain countries no longer have to self-isolate for two weeks.
“It is a huge lifeline for Ibiza as the island’s biggest tourist numbers come from the UK,” Mr Lineker said.
“Our businesses specifically also mainly attract a British clientele.”
He added: “Ibiza did an amazing job with maintaining low numbers of contagions and although extremely sad for us to have seen any deaths, the reality is that it was very low in comparison with lots of other communities in Spain or around Europe.”
Mr Lineker, who also owns the Bam Bu Ku day club, acknowledged the “slight risk” to opening up tourism but argued health services were well prepared, with government restrictions in place.
He said: “I think the main point is just acknowledge we all have a responsibility to be aware of our actions and be socially responsible.”
Mr Lineker highlighted that his businesses has worked hard to adapt to make venues safe and operate at a “lower tempo” than normal.
According to figures from the Spanish Government, there have been a total of 2,249 diagnosed Covid-19 cases across the Balearic Islands during the pandemic, with 224 people dying with the illness.
There were 17 cases diagnosed on the islands in the seven days to July 9 and no deaths in that period.
Flights carrying British holidaymakers began arriving in Ibiza this weekend, with TUI, the UK’s largest tour operator, restarting a limited number of holidays.
Starting on Monday, the Balearic Government will require people to wear face masks in all public spaces, excluding beaches, pools and when doing sports.
People breaching the rule risk a 100 euro fine (£89.48), while venues could be hit with penalties of 600,000 euro (£536,897) if their operations create serious health risks.
The island’s super clubs, such as Ushuaia, are currently closed, but Mr Lineker’s open air O Beach venue operates with strict social distancing rules from 1pm to 10pm.
Customers must stick to pre-booked sunbeds and are served by temperature-checked staff wearing face masks.
There are even plans for staff and guests to enter the premises through a “disinfectant mist spray” – although this is not yet in place.
Along the promenade of the west coast town of San Antonio, other terraced bars were open but beaches were quiet on Sunday morning.
Buying ice cream, Dave Clarke, 57, a care home director on holiday from Bristol with his family, said: “This time of day the beach would be rammed even on a Sunday morning and it’s lovely (but) not good for tourism businesses.”
Mr Clarke, who has been coming to the island for 15 years, said the family was not nervous about travelling, adding: “Everybody is respectful – all the proprietors of businesses, there’s sanitiser everywhere.”
His wife, Angie Clarke, also 57, said: “There’s very little open compared to what’s normally open.”
On a beach in the bay across from San Antonio, Daniel Ryall, 23, a civil engineer, and Olivia Cambridge, 24, a finance assistant, both from London, were enjoying the start of their holiday.
“When we go in our hotel there’s obviously hand sanitiser and stuff but we’ve been doing it at home so it’s not different really,” said Olivia.
“We were only going to come for the party side of things but it’s not really a big deal to us now.”
Mr Ryall noted that at their hotel people were having their temperature checked on entry.
“It’s not really that weird to be honest,” he said.
“It’s different but if anything it adds a bit more security, just makes you less nervous.”
Martin Makepeace, who runs a property company in Ibiza and has lived there for 30 years, said the coronavirus pandemic has had a “catastrophic” affect on the economy.
“2020 is a matter of getting through the year, damage limitation, paying the bills, then focus on 2021,” he said.
Mr Makepeace, president of the British Association for San Antonio, claimed a “project fear” is putting off some British tourists returning on holiday.
He said Italian and German tourists were “reaping the benefit” of entering lockdown earlier in their countries, accusing the UK Government of “complete incompetence” in its handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
“Bringing in the quarantine after the horse had bolted didn’t make any sense,” he argued.
He urged British tourists to venture to Ibiza, where they would find it “very chilled” and not “party, party”.
“It’s more focused on a daytime vibe, long lunches, beaches, swimming pools,” he said.
“Maybe the pandemic will give people the chance to see the real Ibiza and not just the inside of a discotheque.”
Mr Lineker said: “It will be hard to recreate a ‘party’ vibe anywhere in the world with mass gatherings out of the question for this summer.
“Summer 2020 is about indulging in other experiences and broadening the horizons a little from what we would usually consider the norm.”
He added: “I think everyone that will come to the island will still be able to have a great holiday and will be pleasantly surprised to find how many places are open and how good the atmosphere and the beauty of the island is.”