Earlier this week, I was surprised, and somewhat horrified, to hear a 'new Ibiza' is being built near Dubai. For starters, the name is unconvincing. Dream Island. Really? It sounds like a hybrid between the Belgian festival Tomorrowland and the British mattress company 'Dreams', stamped on by Disney. (If they would like a more suitable name, I'd be happy to throw a few ideas into the hat.)
Aside from confusion, curiosity and emotional imbalance, the fundamental question hit me - can anywhere ever rival Ibiza?
Those lucky enough to experience Ibiza know it isn't just another holiday. It's not any old island and it certainly isn't a place to be taken lightly. Its parties are stuff of legend. Afterwards you can never quite manage to describe the experience but year after year you feel that urge to book a flight and dive right back into the madness.
This new man-made island will be dedicated 'solely to partying' with two mega clubs, four beach clubs, five hotels and 100 restaurants. But building clubs is no guarantee it could rival Ibiza. Dream Island will be competing against the world's best clubs such as Space Ibiza - the world's most awarded club since 1989 - and Pacha Ibiza - the world's biggest clubbing name. Not forgetting the underground clubs, pop up beach parties and secret cave raves that we all know and love (and love to know).
Ibiza is the island that never sleeps. Ever. You can bounce from after-party to after-after-party and then onto an after-after-after-party until you realise it's three days later and you've been surviving solely off a packet of chewing gum and a litre of water. Dream Island will need some stamina to compete!
Ibiza has earned its reputation and it would be impressive to see a new development top its iconic clubs and atmosphere. There's one thing you can't top, though, and that's the characters that return year after year. For those of you that know Gino, you'll agree he's one of a kind and cannot be impersonated - no matter how hard the UAE tries.
There's also the United Arab Emirates' zero tolerance for drug-related offences. Penalties in Dubai are a hell of a lot more severe than in Ibiza. Having a tiny amount of illegal drugs in your possession (including in your blood stream) could lead to a 4+ year jail sentence. More serious drug smuggling or trafficking could land you with the death penalty. Still think it's worth it?
Obviously drugs are illegal in Ibiza, just like anywhere else, but it would be naïve to think that stops people on holiday. Remember the British couple sentenced to jail in 2010 for kissing in public in Dubai? We've all had a little smooch in a nightclub but I don't fancy being thrown into a cell for it. It's not difficult to imagine European partygoers getting into similar trouble for falling foul of local drug laws. Could this 'new Ibiza' end up plastered across the news for all the wrong reasons?
Dream Island has big ambitions. Sales and marketing director George Saad says it will also try to attract festivals like Burning Man. But why not create your own? Festivals that turn into international brands bore to me. I want something unique in its own right. That's why a highlight of Together Week Ibiza is visiting Benimussa Park. From exploring the abandoned zoo to dancing around the woodland stage and seeing top underground DJs at the seal pit arena, it's unique!
One thing I do love about Dream Island is that, unlike some destinations, it's ready to embrace the title of party paradise rather than shying away from it. There are places in Spain, namely Ibiza and Mallorca, where certain areas are trying to shake off the no-nonsense-no-sleep party vibe (good luck with that). Embracing its party reputation is the best way to secure the best talent and most spectacular attractions. Just look at Las Vegas.
I'm left torn between loyalty to Ibiza, one of my favourite places in the world, and the excitement that something even better could be coming our way. Since my first trip to Ibiza over two years ago, my love affair with the island has flourished and I return multiple times each year. I can't wait to see what they come up with when Dream Island is complete in 2018.
Who knows, maybe it's time to launch my own 'new Ibiza' project. If any investors would like to contact me about "Club Louisiana", a decadent Club Tropicana themed affair where the pina coladas are on tap and everyone has to wear a George Michael mask - I'll be waiting.