There’s no such thing as a free lunch. And for most journalists and editors the offer of “a private jet to Ibiza for the weekend” is like finding that Lanvin jacket you coveted at the start of the season lingering, inexplicably, on the sale rail, in your size, at 85% off.
This is how PR works.
You think journalists pay their way to research a story and then hand over the receipts to their editor? As if. I was on assignment in Seoul a few years back, and the manager of the W hotel asked me what my publisher allowed for expenses. I asked him to guess. “Ten grand?” he suggested. Laugh? I nearly paid for my own wi-fi.
It’s all gushing adjectives: “sumptuous” this, “exquisite” that. Pass the salt
It’s less about bribery and more about reality. What a writer earns for a main feature on a national newspaper is often comparable to half the cost of a tasting menu at the Michelin-starred restaurant they are writing about. So, to make things work, journalists depend on the kindness of strangers and PRs. Which, sadly, is why you so rarely read anything negative in travel features. It’s all gushing adjectives: “sumptuous” this, “exquisite” that. Pass the salt. A serious journalist will still take all the necessary freebies but still write the story from the perspective of someone who had to pay full whack for the whole thing. Because that’s what they are advising their reader to do.
Sometimes it ruffles feathers. A PR was once less than pleased with me after I’d pointed out in the Independent that the restaurant at one of her client’s hotels in Phuket was – while fairly nice in most other respects – scandalously overpriced. I don’t know about you, but I think £45 corkage if you BYO is a bit spendy. And that’s what they were charging.
Skilled PR frames an experience as attractively as possible to the weary, cynical, poorly paid but spoilt journalist. A PR can’t do much about what the hotel thinks is a reasonable mark-up on a wine list, but they can get you there and back for your research without subjecting you to a 7am bus trip to a local craft shop, or a two-hour tour of 20 identical bedrooms and conference facilities. I have heard about, and indeed been invited on, press trips that I’d pay a fortnight’s salary to avoid.
So anyway – back, and on, to the jet. Having ruthlessly cancelled a major family gathering at obscenely short notice, off I sailed in a cab towards Farnborough Airport last weekend with a handful of other writers and editors en route to the ME Ibiza.
The last time I was in the Balearics was for a shoot with the Vengaboys. Which dates it somewhat. I stayed in a luxurious villa paid for by the record company, did about thirty minutes’ work and improved my breaststroke for the rest of the week. This time, the itinerary was different: cocktails, spa treatments, sundowner cocktails, dinner, a yacht trip to Formentera (where Melia is planning to open an ME terrace), dinner at the Cavalli Lounge, brunch at Nikki Beach next door to the ME Ibiza…
You can see why the family gathering bit the dust.
Apart from bitching about the extraordinary length of time it takes to get to Farnborough Airport (which is, of course, Farnborough Hampshire, not Farnborough in London), the private jet experience (complete with “ME by Melia” branded tail) was as smooth in every respect as one would hope.
you start having Wolf of Wall Street flashbacks while the Möet flows for two hours
You take off pretty much when you want. You sit in comfy leather seats with gold buckled seatbelts at a table of four and you start having Wolf of Wall Street flashbacks while the Möet flows for two hours. The catering is, champagne aside, peculiar – myriad Perspex boxes kept landing on our table, full of the kind of refined white carbohydrates and sugared items more suited to the buffet of a children’s birthday in Leigh-on-Sea. And yet, giddy on the sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, we snarfled up the lot.
Arriving at the ME Ibiza brings to mind those “If Heineken did…” adverts. The hotel mixes indoors and outdoors with sharp, modern, architectural aplomb and plenty of opportunities to flop out on soft beds. Even if you’re sitting in the lobby waiting for your room key, you’re also close to the pool, relaxing.
The non-stop music is of the Balearic variety and the staff, who glide around in crisp white outfits, are uniformly comely and tanned. I spend much of my time in hotels that go out of their way to disguise and cushion the fact that you’ve flown halfway across the world to do a lot of work you don’t want to do. You know how it goes: two Michelin stars in the dining room in the evening, seven meetings the next day from 8.30am.
The ME Ibiza is no romantic honeymoon hideaway, that’s for sure
No one at the ME Ibiza is there to work, apart from the staff. My Sean Connery Sunspel Swim Shorts represented the bulk of my wardrobe for my whole stay, from breakfast through to being asked politely but firmly to get out of the pool at 3am because it probably wasn’t safe no matter how drunk I claimed I wasn’t. The ME Ibiza is no romantic honeymoon hideaway, that’s for sure, but for a group of Monocle-subscribing friends looking for a fortnight away together, it’s perfect.
Me, I love hotels like this. I live for glossy, bright white resorts where you can eat tapas in the shade, where they project movies on the dining room walls, and where the communal areas are filled with the kind of furniture that was Instagrammed a lot at the Salone del Mobile in Milan a few years back. It’s meticulously louche, and the gin and tonics come, Spanish-style, in fishbowls on stems.
The pool scene is definitely “a scene”, but it’s not a megaclub with SPF30. I’m never a lover of loud music by a swimming pool, but this is Ibiza after all, so I knew what to expect, and tempered my grumbling accordingly. Not that it’s a Eurotrash frat party: the crowd is largely 30- and 40-something professionals, the DJ is tolerable, and the rooftop infinity pool (for suite guests only) is calmer still. I could have quite happily spent a fortnight up there, devouring paperbacks and summoning fishbowl after fishbowl, and the occasional Yves Klein-blue bottle of Solan de Cabras mineral water.
The “sexy” button on the lighting panel by the bed made me cringe and roll my eyes simultaneously and violently
So, what’s not to like? My massage – in a row of rooftop cabanas – could be filed neatly into the “meh” category. But the champagne before it (and after in the hot tub) was a nice touch. The “sexy” button on the lighting panel by the bed made me cringe and roll my eyes simultaneously and violently. So too did the concept of the hotel having an “Aura Manager”. The W really does have a lot to answer for.
Other gripes: my TV didn’t want to play ball when I tried to Bluetooth music to it from my HTC One. And having the maid write something inspirational on the mirror in the bathroom each morning is one thing, but when it’s from Lady Gaga, it makes me come over all spiteful and Queen Elizabeth I.
And what’s to like? Well, the bedrooms at the ME Ibiza are bright, white and had me scrolling through my internet thesaurus for synonyms for “contemporary”. My room had a piece of art on the wall that looked like a batch of melted 12 inch vinyl and a terrace with sunloungers overlooking the pool. Beds are comfortable, and you can black out the whole room for those mornings that have accidentally blurred into the night before.
I’ve been to far too many try-hard-fabulous luxury beach resorts that seemingly can’t find a single decent member of staff to employ. And the ME Ibiza looks so shiny (and is, crucially, still very new) that I expected to find at least a couple of arrogant barmen to hate. But, to a man, the staff were cheerful, helpful and “on it”.
The best thing? The food. This is some of the best dining I’ve had in a hotel anywhere, and certainly in this kind of beachfront milieu. From the top grade Jamón Ibérico on the breakfast buffet (I must have eaten £50 worth in one morning) to the softest, lightest squid I have ever tasted at lunch, everything was superb.
The ME by Melia private jet is, for all the frivolity of entertaining those perpetually thirsty journalists, part of a product that the burgeoning ME by Melia brand is taking seriously. Twelve people can hop on board the flight from Farnborough (fares from €25,000 per person) and have six nights at the hotel in a top suite with ME Ibiza branded Range Rover transfers, a champagne-fuelled yacht trip to a seafood lunch at Juan & Andrea in Formentera, and daily spa treatments.
It’s a nice enough idea – but realistically, anyone contemplating a private jet to Ibiza is heading straight to their private villa when they get there.
Me, I’d drop the private jet, fly British Airways and repurpose the funds into more than six days by the pool. C
ME Ibiza, Urbanización S’Argamassa, Ibiza, Santa Eulalia del Río 07840
+34 971-330051; melia.com