Archive for December 20, 2010

I think anyone travelling abroad who has no interest in the place they’re visiting beyond their hotel is wasting a wonderful opportunity to add colour to their lives as well as abusing a great privilege that many people in the world could never afford in their wildest dreams.

In fact if it were up to me I’d introduce a questionnaire that had maybe 10 basic questions about the destination someone was travelling to. They’d have to get 50% correct before I’d allow them on the plane. Andy says this is the fascist in me.

Saying that, I’m not one of those people who looks down my nose at tourists (except stupid and rude ones, but then that’s not because they’re tourists, that’s because they’re stupid and rude) and I can’t really understand those who do, especially those who have the term filed under the distasteful words section of their brain just after paedophile.
On Tenerife we’re all tourists in one way or another; the only ones who wouldn’t be are the Guanche and there’s none of them left. Let’s face it the conquistadors who alighted on Tenerife 500 years ago and thought it looked like a nice place to set up home are only separated from those who do the same today by the distance of time.

Big, Brash & Beautiful...unless you're a tourist snob.

But last week I was reminded that there are other types of holidaymakers that are neither your stereotypical tourist, nor discerning traveller and one of these is the tourist snob – someone who is under the impression they are a savvy traveller and treats other tourists like they’ve got the plague.

A few years ago I read an article  about a couple who liked to visit restaurants in France that were off the beaten track . On one occasion they were horrified to find another British couple enjoying lunch in one of their favourite haunts. It upset them so much that the place had been corrupted by ‘tourists’ that they promptly left. The very idea that the presence of another British couple made the restaurant less charming was laughable.

Charming leafy atrium or tacky hotel lounge?

Last week a couple of acquaintances visited Puerto de la Cruz for the first time. They didn’t like it. That’s okay – it isn’t for everybody, but their reasoning irked me. They found it too busy, tacky and overdeveloped. It was the puente weekend so yes it was very, very busy…with Canarios. Yes, like many towns across Europe, Puerto is overdeveloped…and mostly because of residential blocks built for Canarios. The tacky part may have been an allusion to the bright and brash funfair in the harbour car park frequented by…yup, you’ve guessed it, Canarios. So ostensibly what they disliked most about the place was that it was actually too much of a working Canario town for them. Tellingly they though Punta de Hidalgo was fabulous. Yet there was no mention of the word tacky for that tired, 50s built, blot on the Anaga landscape. But it had the one ingredient that was important to them – it was serenely quiet. And to them serenely quiet seemed to equal authenticity.

In truth they didn’t want to discover the real Tenerife, they wanted something that ticked all the boxes that they felt added up to authenticity.
I don’t necessarily have a problem with that; we all have our likes and dislikes, but I do have a problem with someone who is snooty about a place not being authentic because it isn’t purpose built to meet their idea of what authentic should be.

I’ve heard people say that they wouldn’t consider visiting Puerto because it might be too touristy. Again what nonsense. Do they say that about Barcelona, Edinburgh or London? All popular travel destinations that teem with tourists, but that doesn’t mean they’re not authentic. It’s a ridiculous notion. What’s more these tourist snobs are rarely to be found in the centre of a carnaval street party, or amongst the thousands who fill Playa Jardín during midsummer’s eve, or watching a local band at one of the town’s mainly Spanish bars. Another indication that they’re not really seeking authenticity.

I grew up on a Scottish island that attracted hordes of tourists in the summer months. When our highland games were held the place was packed out with visitors, but the games were staged for locals first and foremost (yes we liked to wear kilts, toss cabers and eat deep fried haggis in batter) and at no point did we consider them touristy. Had a tourist snob who didn’t live there yet thought they knew better suggested otherwise they would have found themselves being tossed through the air along with the finest Scottish pine.

Tourist snobs aren’t travellers at all; they’re just fussy people who want everything to be exactly as they think it should be. The big difference between them and visitors who want British beer, Brit bars and Brit food then pick their holiday to suit is at least the latter group is honest about not wanting to experience the real Tenerife.