Looking out at the immaculately clean pool from the lounge area of my room at Tui Blue Aura in Ibiza, it’s hard to notice any real difference to holidaying in the pre-Covid world.
Families are relaxing on sun loungers, lost in novels and playing with their children in the water in a typical scene from an all-inclusive resort.
The changes are as subtle as they can be, especially at the pool where loungers are strictly disinfected by the lifeguard after each guest leaves – and are farther apart than they would have been previously.
But this is barely noticeable the day after the first guests since March arrived at the hotel – which is limited to 70% capacity and expecting to be about 55% full the week commencing July 13. It just feels like the shoulder season.
While you don’t have to wear masks at the pool, in your room, at restaurants, by the beach or while doing exercise, from July 13 everyone in the Balearics must have a face covering while they’re out and about. Fines range from €100- €6,000, and the locals are taking it seriously.
Our guide for a walking tour of Ibiza Town, Pep was palpably happy to welcome his first guests since March and was willing to comply with whatever was required. He said “we don’t like the masks, but we will do it” as he pointed out that 90% of the island’s economy is based on tourism, and suggested the remaining 10% is indirectly linked to it. Through a little improvisation, he has replaced his mask with a visor with a plastic screen that covers his face (approved by the local authorities). The theory is it still stops germs from spreading, but doesn’t muffle his voice when he’s talking guests through the island’s history, from the Phoenicians to the Hippy movement.
The town was quiet, but not empty. The amount of people made it feel like travelling in a very warm February. Restaurants and cafes were open, and had moved to contactless payments with menus accessible on phones via QR codes. It was pretty simple but people with technophobic tendencies might need a bit of time to adapt.
We drove through Playa d’en Bossa – which would normally be alive with the buzz of young people living their best lives as they saunter from beach club to hotel – but the shutters were up. The majority of the local population accept that this summer is a write-off for the clubbing scene. Perhaps Ricardo Muñoz, commercial and marketing director at Tui Blue Aura sums it up best when he says “this is not a summer to get rich, it’s a summer to bring confidence back”.
Back at his hotel, we’re allowed in the water park (providing we’re tall enough), but capacity is reduced from 205 to 150, broadly in line with the reduced hotel capacity. The kids club is open, but instead of 30 children per group it’s 10 at maximum, with sessions 90 minutes rather than two hours to allow for cleaning in between. The Baby Club is closed until August.
The snack bar buffet is still a buffet in the sense that you choose your food from a range of options, but you are served it rather than helping yourself. That is different at breakfast, however. Once the obligatory temperature check is complete (and I haven’t seen anyone ‘fail’ it), you help yourself as normal, but with plastic screens in front of the food. I found it a little tricky to slide my ham under the screen, and felt like I couldn’t get a substantial helping of beans in one go, but customers seemed to appreciate the reassurance that the food itself it almost certainly germ-free. Most wore masks while filling their plates, and everyone adhered to the one-way system and social distance markers as far as I could tell. It didn’t feel like there was too much pressure though.
We had our evening meal at the a la carte Taverna restaurant which, aside from waiters wearing gloves and masks, felt no different other than using a QR code for the menu. Resort manager Daniel Anderson said he’d like the QR code menus to stay long-term as they’d proven a hit so far with guests.
One of the new rules is that you can’t move furniture around, be it sun loungers or chairs in the bar area. Staff said they would happily bring your group an extra chair, but the point is to avoid different groups sitting too close – so if you’re the sort of family that likes to make holiday friends you might have to be happy to shout over. But despite families being sat slightly further apart, there was still a sense of camaraderie when we watched the evening entertainment, a monster show. Kids had to stand four metres back from the stage (because performers were not wearing masks), but that was no problem as they made a game out of them dancing on their own stage. The same principle is applied at pool games, where reps make it part of the fun for the little ones to only use their own toys.
Tui was keen to stress that all of these measures are under “constant review”. The first families back seemed fairly at ease with the changes, which appear to have been introduced in as subtle a way as possible. It’s also worth noting that they could be fine-tuned from here on as guests give feedback.
The general feeling is that whenever you’re on holiday you have to adapt to new things, and after a couple of days you’re usually relaxed and settled. And with many of the safety measures in place similar to protocols back home, it’s not as if people are on edge or stressed. They know that their family, and all their fellow guests, have been temperature checked so shouldn’t pose an immediate Covid risk – and Tui now has Covid Cover as standard on package holidays – and it all feels more clinical than going out back home.
The operator’s Holiday Promise pledges that customers will only go if the experience is comparable with what they booked. And it pretty much is.
While the masks may be a little stifling when you’re walking about in the sun, the measures over in the Balearics are in line with what you’d expect at home in a post-Covid world. So, if you’re comfortable going to the supermarket or down your local for a drink, you’ll be comfortable going on your package holiday.
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