Mass tourism creates many positive social impacts such as preserving local culture/heritage, strengthening communities, providing more employment opportunities, and increasing standards of living. On a recent research trip to Ibiza, the effect of mass tourism focusing on architecture and leisure was documented.

The old town of Ibiza is densely built up with shops, restaurants, and residential units approximately 4 stories high. While this area creates a picturesque view of a typical Balearic town, the reality is that it is specifically geared to tourism and little to no locals reside here due to the expense of living. While mass tourism stimulates the economy and provides jobs for locals, it can also polarize local communities out of high tourism areas.

A mass tourist’s guide to Ibiza in the off-season:

  • Visit the local restaurants and get a taste of “Gourmet” dishes and be treated as a connoisseur with a great deal of knowledge about the fine arts; someone who is a keen appreciator of cuisines, fine wines, and other gourmet products. These “fine wines” include sangria by the batch and the gourmet food is an array of nontraditional tapas plates leading the mass tourist (You!) to believe you are having an authentic Spanish experience.

  • Getting ready for summer – Bikini season is fast approaching and while you’re preparing so are the buildings! Take a tour of all the ongoing construction in old town Ibiza and listen to the beautiful sounds of those power tools. On an island so superficial you gotta look good and so does the town.

  • During your authentic Ibizan experience, we challenge you to spot all the cherries that adorn the buildings, advertisements, and monuments. The Ibizans may identify with the cherry more than their own flag. Symbolically the cherries represent the pursuit of physical and sexual pleasure, self-indulgence, and lust – the Ibizan experience that mass tourists are buying into.

  • The old town of Ibiza has many cute shops that specialize in the traditional boho-chic beachwear that the masses don for their vacation. The cost of a hat may set you back a week’s paycheck, but when in Ibiza, do as the masses do. Let love rule the globe … and more importantly, the credit cards swipe!

  • Take a walk along the marina towards the yacht club and stumble upon Jean Nouvel’s Patio Blanco buildings. You may not recognize them at first glance as they bear little resemblance to the documented photos, but there they are in all their glory. If you stick around long enough, the man who watches the gate will tell you exactly what he and the Ibizans think of Mr. Nouvel (Hint: It’s not a positive opinion).

  • If you’re one of the only people here for the Island’s historic attractions, visit the Castle. Sadly but not surprisingly, this attraction is also under construction. Even though Ibiza and the Castle have a strong historical significance, the town is more concerned with its draw factor, focusing on the addition of frivolous interventions for tourists to experience and downplaying the museum that explains the relevance.

  • And finally, the revered Ibiza nightlife. While you may picture world-famous nightclubs and Paris Hilton on the turntables, you can’t expect that in the off-season. Instead, dial your expectations down and try to find a house party or some hint of life after 9pm. 

Overall, the effect that mass tourism has on the island is evident, even in the off-season without the masses. However, if you’re expecting the authentic Ibizan experience and not the one outlined above, it’s recommended to visit after Easter weekend. This experience shed light on the phenomenon that occurs in a place where mass tourism occurs a small portion of the year and what defines the city when mass tourism is not occurring.

Ibiza: architecture and leisure is a project of IAAC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed in the Master in Advanced Architecture 2020/21 by Students: Morgan O’Reilly, Federico Caldi, Alessandra Weiss; Faculty: Mathilde Marengo, Willy Müller; Assistants: Adriana Aguirre Such, Margherita Pasquali