Archive for January 31, 2010

There was a moment on Thursday night at the gala dinner in honour of the British Guild of Travel Writers, visiting Tenerife for their AGM, when I suddenly felt like Alice through the looking glass.
The Disney-esque setting of the luxurious Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque combined with a laser show, which made feel as though I’d just tripped the hi-tech alarms in a heist movie, created a scene which was bordering on the surreal. I thought back to the previous Sunday when I was in San Antonio in La Matanza’s upper reaches for the San Abad celebrations.

Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque

Up there, sharing a bench with a pair of narky looking eagles and filling glasses from a carafe (a pepsi bottle) of sultry wine from the kiosk owner’s own vineyard seemed like the most natural thing in the world to be doing on a Sunday afternoon. That’s the Tenerife I know best. The plush, luxury hotel setting would be as alien to the people I had mingled with the previous Sunday as their world would be to most of the people who temporarily populate the tourist conurbations in the south of Tenerife.

But that didn’t make it any less real. It was simply a different face of Tenerife. In fact the gala dinner was a lively and enjoyable affair and Andy and I met some truly interesting people – no surprise there I suppose. If you’re passionate about travel and other cultures and you mingle with people who clearly share this passion, then their company is almost guaranteed to entertain.

The Tenerife Cabildo (government) had laid on a series of very diverse excursions to expose the BGTW members to the many different faces of the island and to try and drive home the message that Tenerife is much more than the tiny, purpose built area which grabs much of the attention…outside Tenerife that is.

Real Life in Tenerife's Hills

Pretty much all of the people I spoke to praised the organisation and the effort that had gone into showing them Tenerife. Although some trips had impressed more than others, most members seemed to have learned things about Tenerife that they hadn’t known previously.

I’m hoping that the learning process has been two way. In the short time I had to speak with various guild members it was obvious that their wealth of expertise and experience could help the Tenerife Tourism Board enormously. John Bell pinpointed marketing strategies which could revolutionise the way Tenerife is perceived in Britain. Sarah Monaghan’s knowledge about eco-tourism was a deep well which was there to be drawn from and Michael Howorth’s insight into the yachting fraternity’s view of marinas on Tenerife should have had tourism board officials scribbling furiously. I could go on and on.

If the powers that be on Tenerife are serious about the island modifying its media image so that it attracts more visitors who have an interest in the culture of the island rather than just its temperatures then they also have to adjust. They need to learn to listen more to and, more importantly, follow advice from external sources.

What impressions the BGTW will take away from their visit to Tenerife we’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully they will have been exposed to enough of the real Tenerife to convince them that Tenerife is full of, ironically given its annual amount of visitors, ‘undiscovered’ treasures.

However, my heart sank when I woke the morning after the gala dinner to read that after the dinner some journos had headed straight to the infamous Veronicas in Las Américas.

No prizes for guessing what they encountered there. I’m sure their visit was motivated by journalistic fascination, but just in case it wasn’t I’ll repeat what no doubt will be inscribed on my tombstone…

That is not a part of the real Tenerife; hell, it isn’t even representative of Las Américas these days.