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Tourists take over Ibiza, locals left in lurch


Gabriel Alberto Andrade has lived in a van for a year, unable to pay for a home in Spain’s Ibiza where rental prices have shot up as mass tourism takes its toll on locals.

Known as much as a wild party island as a place of tranquility with coves of turquoise blue water, Ibiza has increased in popularity over the years.

But behind the sea, sun, dancing and yachts lurks a serious problem of tourism overcrowding that is preventing many locals from finding affordable accommodation.

“It’s not easy living in a van but rental prices are crazy, you just can’t pay them,” says Andrade, a 47-year-old Argentine who has lived in this part of the Balearic Islands since 2000, but was forced to move out of his home when he separated from his wife.

In his metallic blue van, he sleeps on a sofa-bed and makes meals on a small gas cooker. On the roof, solar panels provide him with electricity.

Just under a decade ago, he says he could rent a country house for just $470 a month. Now for that price, he would be reduced to sharing a room.

The number of tourists visiting Ibiza, a small island of just 142,000 inhabitants, has almost doubled from 1.7 million in 2010 to three million in 2016, according to the regional statistics institute.

This mirrors a similar trend in the rest of Spain, the world’s third tourism destination which close to 76 million people visited in 2016, although there are fears last month’s terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils may dampen their enthusiasm.

In Ibiza, high demand for accommodation prompted the appearance of scores of tourist rentals, most of them without a permit, provoking a rise in real-estate prices and making it hard to find a room for less than 600 euros.

The citizens’ Platform of those Affected by Rental Prices in Ibiza has detailed the existence of countless abusive offers — 500 euros a month to live on a balcony, 300 euros for a mattress not including the bathroom, or 2,100 euros for a small caravan.

With a salary of just 1,400 euros as a truck driver and vendor, Andrade chose to buy his van for 3,000 euros.

The situation gets even worse in high season, when the number of people on the island triples and temporary workers are needed in the tourism industry.

Such is the difficulty to find affordable housing that the Can Misses Hospital in Ibiza has rehabilitated an unused floor to provide accommodation for temporary workers.

Javier Segura, a 30-year-old microbiologist, arrived in June and was forced to stay there after an unsuccessful search for a flat.