This article was originally published on 14th August 2007 but its probably worth changing the publishing date…
|by Carl M Hague|
A fresh face at the head of government always offers the possibility of positive change. It also encourages the citizens to take another look at themselves and the place that they call home.
Some feel sufficiently inspired to offer their expertise for the common good.
May I begin by congratulating you and all the politicians of Ibiza and Formentera who won office in the recent elections and who now have control of the destiny of this beautiful place, until the next election. Please guard your legacy well in the interests of everyone who was born here, loves Ibiza, makes their home here, owns an enterprise or is a visitor; I include myself amongst them.
I travel widely and frequently and regardless of where I am in the world, when I feel homesick it is for Ibiza; however this preamble is only to provide you with a background to explain why I am writing to you. It was your interview in “Ibiza Now” of July 2007 and my deep love for Ibiza that prompted me to write this letter. In it I offer you my thoughts on the economic future you seem to have planned for your time in office.
Your views on health, education, welfare and to some degree the environment are unchallengeable. The young must be educated, the environment cherished and the old and infirm cared for; however it is the long term health of the island economy that will enable you and your fellow politicians of all parties, now and in the future, to make things happen in the way you want them to, not only for this generation but also for our children and our children’s children. Subsidies from Madrid and Brussels are all very good as a way to get things started, but they are not a substitute for a robust and sustainable internal economy.
As both a foreigner and a modest expert in marketing I believe that I have a more detached view of what could be done in this area than a native; it is outlined below and based on a guiding principal used by all marketers no matter what goods or services sector they are in. First “Discover who and where your clients and potential clients are, find out what they want and then make it easy for them to buy at fair prices.” You will perhaps note that I say fair prices; this does not necessarily mean cheaply. The key words are value for money. It is the mistake made by every budding entrepreneur to say to him or herself “Now, what can I make or do that people will buy cheaply?”
The opposite is the correct question “What do people want that I am able to provide that will make a sustainable profit for my company?” In our case – Ibiza and her people.
In Ibiza we are limited in the way we are able to apply the rule because at present all we have is the land, the weather and the sea. All are exquisitely beautiful. The only thing that we can manufacture is the Ibiza “experience.”
Ibiza faces immense competition for the discretionary expenditure of all her clients. Cheap holidays can be bought in Croatia, Northern Cyprus, even the United States at present, and even further away in Vietnam, Indonesia or Thailand where the Euro is a very powerful currency. The days of budget priced holidays in Ibiza are limited – globalisation and long haul air travel will take care of this regardless of what is done to slow down the change here, or in any of the other destinations that were perceived as cheap some years ago.
“Looking backwards for a better tomorrow” is an unwise beginning for any strategy aimed at generating a thriving sustainable economy. History will largely tell us what mistakes have been made by our predecessors, guide us away from problems and allow us to build on the best of the past. It is unlikely to show us the shape of tomorrow.
One particular example to illustrate my point about developing what clients want comes to mind. It is Porsche the German automobile company and its sports car range. There are many parallels with Ibiza – it is a beautiful luxury product developed from humble beginnings for a highly specialised niche market – and initially with very few resources except the enthusiasm of Dr Porsche and a few experts. It is though a model of what can be done by exploiting what you have, determination, focus and by reinvesting profits.
As many will know the original car began life shortly after WW II as a modified version of the “VW Beetle,” people enjoyed driving it but only aficionados. It was too quirky – but the idea was good. The company listened to its customers and made changes and by the mid 60’s and early 70’s they had developed a very desirable product. It was still difficult to drive and needed great skill – but by this time it had become a connoisseur’s car, and it was sought after. By the end of the 20th century Porsche had developed probably the most balanced, well engineered, safe, reliable and fast long distance touring car in the world. The company achieved this by listening to what its customers wanted – not by pushing features at them that the company wanted them to buy. Could this be a model for the way forward for Ibiza? I think it is; Listen to your customers and don’t keep pushing things at them that YOU think they need. One only needs to look at Jaguar to see the opposite effect.
I have some further information that may be of interest to you. Some years ago I was asked by a local businessman to consider how he could develop his very successful Ibiza based, luxury restaurant business in other locations bordering the Mediterranean. My study showed that there are more market group A B C1 families living within two and a half hours flying time of Ibiza (and the neighbouring mainland coastline of Spain and France) than anywhere else in the world! I did not exclude any of the obvious cities such as Metropolitan New York, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Hong Kong. These European A B C1 families must become Ibiza’s target market of the future – wealthy discerning people. Nor of course should we exclude wealthy “world travellers” the super rich – but I feel that their influence would be marginal in most cases.
Broadly speaking the A B C1 group will be aged 40 to 60+ years old. The younger ones will be highly successful in business all over Europe and earn substantial sums of money. The older ones are likely to have had successful careers, have considerable savings and will also probably have inherited wealth from their parents.
The next question is what do they want? Here are a few observations based on my own personal experience.
- A warm welcome
- Beautiful surroundings
- A chance to relax
- Good food
- The company of like minded people
- Excellent hotel accommodation
- Excellent service
- Ease of access by air and sea
- Fair treatment
- Spa treatments
- Wellness and therapy centres
- Five star hotels
- Elective and/or cosmetic and dental surgery
- Top class “retail experiences”
- Golf courses
- Elite restaurants
- Superb transport infrastructure
- Second homes
- Private banking
- Yachts and motor yachts and their associated services
- World class entertainment
- Private aviation
And most of all what they do not want is an overbuilt environment, personal insecurity, poor sanitation, unreliable water or power supplies and bad value for money.
Sir, your competition is no longer Benidorm, Fuengirola or even Marbella. To ensure a sound future for Ibiza we need to engage the energy, enthusiasm and industry of its people and the interest of the discerning European elite that can freely choose whether to visit luxury destinations such as St Barth’s, the British Virgin Islands, Fiji, Mauritius and the Seychelles or to go on safari to Africa or cruise to Alaska or Antarctica to look at wildlife, or to come to Ibiza, without too much concern about cost. Absolute price is very rarely a consideration for such people.
I read that you would like to attract nature lovers, hikers, cyclists, sports enthusiasts and ornithologists to Ibiza. This is an admirable objective, they are a wonderful group of people and you should encourage them. They will do a great deal to help keep us on the environmentally sensitive growth path – but I do not see them as the economic group that will provide the island with a vigorous free spending clientele, hence economy.
And so, where do we go from here? Some of what I am about to say is pure stargazing but my motto is “Without dreams we have no future” and dream we must, to develop a vision for Ibiza. So, to begin with what do we have?
- A pure environment
The next question is how can our resources be developed in a sound economic and environmental framework ? Here are a few ideas.
- Explore the creation of an offshore financial services centre of excellence – difficult, but is it impossible? after all we are an autonomous community.
- Impose a severe limit on new construction in both quantity and quality – also difficult, but with care it could be achieved with little damage.
- Provide alternative jobs, financial support and re-training for anyone affected by change.
- Encourage local young people to stay and work in Ibiza rather than migrating, by providing affordable housing and challenging, well paid year round work.
- Consider the introduction of a two tier housing market modelled on the island of Guernsey – where all houses are categorised as either “Local market” for island born people – or “Open market” for other legitimate residents, as a form of price control in favour of “locals” and a means of managing immigration
- Permit environmentally sensitive golf course development – golfers have money to spend and so do their wives and partners. They buy training equipment and clothing.
- Allow environmentally sensitive marinas to be built. Boat owners are rich – they have to be!! And nowhere else in the world is as short of moorings as the Mediterranean.
- Encourage private enterprise to develop a new elective healthcare industry. Wealthy people are vain and want to be or stay beautiful.
- Browbeat the airlines (the ones that cream off massive profits for the twelve weeks of summer) into providing year round links to European capitals and second cities to bring in many more year round visitors.
- Involve non-elected, Ibiza loving external influencers (Honorary Ambassadors?) closely in the political process to ensure that everyone in the target market client group knows what Ibiza is planning and encourage inward investment. They are probably rich entrepreneurial people and may have useful ideas of their own.
- Support Ibiza’s creative community by encouraging new music writers, video producers and film workers to come and work here – provide incentives for producers to make movies here. Think about a special “media zone” with its own tax incentives.
- Give the Ibiza Film Festival heavy financial support in its early years and ensure that the world recognises it as a platform of excellence.
- Encourage promoters to locate legitimate festivals on the island – not every young person is a hooligan – take the Glastonbury and Reading festivals in England as an example – they are world renowned and bring in millions in direct and indirect revenues for their cities and districts.
- Consider other arts centred festivals, say international literature and the graphic arts.
- Change the date of the Mediaeval Festival, yes it is busy and we all love it – but no one in the rest of Europe bothers to come. I suspect that the big picture would show that more money leaves the island with the traders and performers than is spent by visitors – the dates are wrong – there are no flights and it is normally cold – this would be an easy change to make.
- Lobby for the next but one Americas Cup to be raced in Ibiza – assuming that Switzerland wins the next time around? In fact has Valencia been awarded the next Cup – it must be worth finding out?
- Encourage local farmers and producers to look at wider markets than the local one.
- Promote Ibicenco agricultural produce, fish, salt and wine throughout Europe and the world as premium gastronomic products – surely we must have the soundest agricultural ecostructure in developed Europe. No lamb tastes better, nor do the locally made sausages and cheeses or the fruit and vegetables. Our potatoes used to be renowned in Parisian restaurants, they were the “caviar” of potatoes – why not now? We know that our fish stocks are dangerously low and they must be preserved, but the fish that is allowed to be taken should be made to carry a premium brand and be sought after in European markets.
May I therefore close Mr President, Mayors, Councillors and citizens of Ibiza with a few final words of explanation?
– This letter is written without party political allegiance.
– The thoughts and feelings it contains are entirely my own and come from my heart.
– I am aware that I will have inadvertently excluded the points of view of many sectors of the community, especially the citizens of Formentera (I only know their island as a visitor and do not feel qualified to express a view in their case) to them I apologise unreservedly.
And finally if you have read all the way through this letter – thank you.
With respect, Yours sincerely
Carl M Hague,
Santa Eularia des Riu
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