You can quote all the arguments why people opt for ‘all inclusive’ deals when they go on holiday, but in the last week I’ve witnessed first hand why for local businesses they are as a welcome in a resort as an outbreak of swine flu.
First of all it was Playa Paraiso. We wandered around the little resort during prime lunch time hours. What we saw came as a complete shock.
Every restaurant and bar was almost completely empty – it was a ghost town. And yet there are big hotels right in the centre of the resort… and they weren’t empty. But their occupants weren’t leaving the premises. Even the little beach was empty and the rows of sun beds lay unused.
I’ve been reading constantly about the decline of Puerto de la Cruz, but of course we have a thriving and vibrant local scene here; there’s always something going on and Canarios flock here at the weekend, so the reports never quite match the reality. The same can’t be said of the smaller purpose built resorts where the AI hotels are draining every last bit of life from the streets.
Our next experience of the dramatic impact of AI was in Playa de la Arena at the weekend. We’d spent the Saturday night in Puerto de la Cruz, showing my sister and her boyfriend the town.
We’d eaten tapas then strolled along the streets of the old town, where living statues and unusual puppet shows entertained the throng of visitors and locals, before heading to a packed ‘The Majestic’ to watch what must be one of the best acts on the island, ‘Bitter & Twisted’, perform their show which had us all in stitches. It was two in the morning before we knew it.
Switch forward 24 hours and we’re sitting in a bar in the centre of Playa de la Arena at 23.30. There is no-one else in the bar, or any of the bars nearby. It’s uncomfortably quiet.
“It’s the AI,” the owner tells us. “It’s changed everything.”
There are plenty of people about the resort during the day, enjoying strolling around what at this moment is still a pleasantly relaxing resort. However, most of them might as well be carrying bricks and lobbing them through the windows of all the businesses that they pass.
And this is what really irks me about AI. People choose the resort because it has a nice feel to it (maybe they don’t; maybe they’re not arsed as long as the hotel gives them all they want for their handful of silver), but when it loses that feel because the restaurants and shops become boarded up what will they do then? They’ll stop coming, many of them oblivious to the fact that it was they who hammered in the nails on the ‘for sale’ signs.
I’m hoping there will be a backlash and it’ll come sooner rather than later. One business man told us that some of the AI customers who did come in to his bar moaned that the quality in the Playa de la Arena hotel had plummeted. You might say that as a local businessman who has suffered, it’s no surprise that he would say this.
But recently my neighbour, who like many Canarios spends some weekends in hotels in the south, cut her stay at the Playa de la Arena Hotel short and returned north because she thought the hotel was a disgrace.
It’s a crying shame, but unfortunately greed will ultimately consume and destroy. And in the case of AI hotels, the ‘greed’ accusation shouldn’t simply be levelled at the ‘welcoming foyers’ of the people who own the hotels.
I just hope that there are enough people out there for whom quality is more important than quantity and that the age of the AI will come to an end sooner rather than later.