Yesterday (15 April), the Tomorrowland festival in Belgium became the latest victim of COVID-19, with the organisers issuing a statement to announce that the 2020 edition of the event, scheduled for two weekends at the end of July, has been cancelled.
“In recent weeks, we have had a lot of consultation with the local and national government in Belgium and with a panel of international experts about the two festival weekends we are all so passionate about,” the organisers said. “It’s our mission to unite souls from all over the world, but it’s also our top priority to look after the well-being, health, and safety of the People of Tomorrow, our partners and suppliers, our neighbours, the artists, and our team.
“With a lot of pain in our hearts, we have to inform you that Tomorrowland cannot take place in 2020.”
It’s not the first major festival to pull the plug on its summer proceedings – Coachella and Glastonbury were among the first – but it sets the tone for what could be a far quieter summer than most clubbers had expected just a few weeks ago, as the coronavirus crisis continues to wreak havoc across the continent.
No more so has the crisis been felt than in Spain, which at the time of writing had seen more than 19,000 deaths – a shocking statistic that has reverberations in every part of society, in particular tourism, which is the main driver of the nation’s economy.
Saturday 2 May, was supposed to see the official launch of the summer season in Ibiza, with major parties planned for Amnesia, Es Paradis, Zoo Project and others, with venues such as Pacha, Ushuaïa and DC10 joining them in the weeks to follow.
As things stand, however, it looks increasingly unlikely that these clubs will be able to open at all this summer, or if they do, it will be at a significantly reduced capacity.
Indeed, earlier this week, Amnesia posted a somewhat cryptic message to its Facebook page, saying, “Our doors will open and we will once again enjoy the island, the party nights, the sea and good energy. We’ll be back home.”
Notably, it neglected to inform as to when this would happen, leading to speculation that the much-vaunted venue has already thrown in the towel for this year.
There are also reports that the Palladium Hotel Group, which operates Ushuaïa and Hard Rock, as well as the Hï venue, does not plan to open its locations at all this year.
According to local media portal Noudiari, quoting Palladium president Abel Matutes Prats, “The opening of the hotels will be made as soon as circumstances allow. What we don’t have scheduled is the celebration of parties .
“At the moment, no party is planned. Now, the priority is to fight the virus.”
Earlier this week, the department of labour for the Balearic Islands said that Ibiza is anticipating no tourist activity whatsoever for the months of May, June and July, with numbers reaching about 25% of a typical year in August, and 50% in the months after that.
As Minister Iago Negueruela put it, the Balearic Islands are also likely to be forced to be selective with which nationalities are permitted to enter once restrictions are lifted, given fears over a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19.
“There are countries like the United Kingdom that have taken too long to adopt containment measures and that also puts us in a different situation with respect to them,” he said.
There are signs that the season may not be completely lost; on Thursday, the organisers of the Ibiza Gay Pride festival announced that they are planning to move the event to the end of September, provided “sanitary and safety conditions are adequate”, and health authorities have lifted travel restrictions.
But it is impossible to speculate if even this will take place, given the severity of the current crisis.
As to what this means for the future health of Ibiza as a clubbing destination. Other than directly impacting the 160,000 workers that cater for the summer season, the current impasse could also lead to a re-evaluation of the Ibiza model, which in recent years has veered even more towards a VIP agenda.
Will clubbers be as eager to spend €20 on a ‘vodka limon’ or more than a tenner on a bottle of water once this is all over? And what of the increasingly extortionate ticket prices?
The sense that ‘things will return to normal’ continues to change with each passing week of this pandemic.
As Tomorrowland’s statement put it, “these are exceptional times for all of us”. After the coronavirus scare has lifted, clubbing WILL return, but it could be a much-changed beast, particularly on the White Isle.