Ibiza concerned about influx of tourists amid water shortage

By Lauren McMah

It's a favourite spot for sun, sand and clubbing, but authorities in Ibiza are grappling with the downside of the island's popularity. Photo / iStock
It's a favourite spot for sun, sand and clubbing, but authorities in Ibiza are grappling with the downside of the island's popularity. Photo / iStock

The party could soon be over on the most legendary party island on earth.

The tourism department in Ibiza, the Spanish island famous for poolside clubbing and celebs on holiday, says the island is nearing "breaking point" and can no longer sustain increased numbers of tourists.

The island is running out of drinkable water - a problem that has been compounded by a particularly busy summer season as tourists shun holiday spots like Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey in favour of "safer" havens like Portugal and Spain.

Water, water everywhere and scarcely a drop to drink. Photo / iStock
Water, water everywhere and scarcely a drop to drink. Photo / iStock

Spain's Balearic Islands are seeing a surge in tourist arrivals, with data from March indicating visitors were up nearly 50 per cent from 2015 in that month alone.

This peak season is touted to be among Ibiza's busiest yet, as mostly young revellers from Europe flock en masse to spend the summer on the island's famous beaches and in its more famous nightclubs.

But now, in an interview with Pulse Radio, Ibiza's head of tourism Vicente Torres said the island could barely handle any more tourists.

"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, et cetera. Also, we have to mention matters such as the noise or pollution," Mr Torres said.

"More people on the islands means more people consuming our resources (including water and environment).

"Nowadays we have nearly 100,000 legal touristic beds and a registered population of 13,000 inhabitants, approximately. The island is just 572 square kilometres. We cannot support much more increase in tourism."

Crowds party through the summer on the party island of Ibiza. Photo / Flickr, Federico Capoana
Crowds party through the summer on the party island of Ibiza. Photo / Flickr, Federico Capoana

In a bid to control tourist numbers, Ibiza introduced a "sustainable tourism tax" on July 1 that charges visitors extra for staying on the island.

It includes a $3.15 fee per night for luxury hotels and up-market apartments and about 80 cents a night for camping and hostel stays.

With the tax, Ibiza and the rest of the Balearic Islands join other popular holiday destinations such as Paris, Rome, Prague, Dubrovnik and Barcelona that charge tourists extra for their stay.

Money raised from Ibiza's tax went towards recovering areas that were unattended or spoiled by tourism, among other projects, Mr Torres said.

Ibiza's shortage of drinkable water has been attributed to recent lower-than-average rainfall.

Mr Torres said much of the island's wasted water was due to poor water pipes, which were slowly being fixed, but residents and tourists needed to be more mindful of preserving precious water.

But when asked how many he would consider to be too many tourists, Mr Torres indicated he wasn't yet sure.

Ibiza, one of Spain's Balearic Islands, is a popular spot for summer holiday-makers. Photo / iStock
Ibiza, one of Spain's Balearic Islands, is a popular spot for summer holiday-makers. Photo / iStock

"That's one of the things on the table now," he told Pulse Radio.

He later said: "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."

Ibiza isn't the first popular holiday spot to seriously consider turning tourists away.

Barcelona recently introduced a one-year moratorium on new licences for hotel and tourist apartments in the city and set restrictions on tourists visiting the city's famous La Boqueria markets, in a bid to control visitor numbers.

The president of the Canary Islands has also threatened to cap tourist numbers, while in the Italian Riviera hotspot of Cinque Terre, authorities recently announced limiting the number of tourists to just 1.5 million - one million fewer the 2.5 million who visited last year - to protect the strained and delicate natural environment.

- news.com.au

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