Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The competition accompanying the launch of Tenerife’s first online magazine,  Tenerife Magazine, is so good that a friend’s 20 year old nephew didn’t tell any of his friends, or even his family, about it in the hope that the fewer people who enter it, the better his chances of winning.

Anyone who becomes a fan of Tenerife Magazine on Facebook between now and the end of November automatically is entered into a draw to win a week’s accommodation for up to 4 people at the sun drenched Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote.

Have a look at the picture and tell me that you don’t fancy the idea of reclining on those golden sands beside that crystal mini lagoon. Every time I imagine myself stretching out on the third sun lounger from the left I have to remind myself that as I’m involved with TM, I can’t enter the competition… damn.

Sands beach resort

We’ve been really excited by the launch of Tenerife Magazine for a number of reasons. One, we’re working alongside other people we’ve admired for a long time like author and travel writer Joe Cawley, freelance writer Colin Kirby, SEO expert and blogger Julie Hume and the man that anyone on Tenerife with a business should be breaking down his door to get advice from, John Beckley, director of Sorted Sites.

The other thing that excites us about Tenerife Magazine is that it’s Tenerife’s first English language online magazine and it’s completely independent. This means that opinions will be honest and no punches will be pulled when it comes to views, reviews or anything else for that matter. And all the articles will be 100% original with a strong experiential element; not something that can be taken for granted these days.

It’s also ecologically friendly. No squirrels’ houses were demolished, or trees hacked down to make paper for Tenerife Magazine, so that’s a nice little bonus.

Anyway, back to the competition. This is so ridiculously easy to enter that only someone with a mission to deny themselves pleasure in life wouldn’t bother.

Simply become a fan on Facebook and you could be on your way. Click here to find out more, check out the mag and enter the competition.

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I have to admit to being a bit of a geek here and say that I love statistics. A lot of people do, they just don’t realise it and they also don’t realise that they are being constantly manipulated by the media who ‘creatively’ use statistics to further their own agenda.

One of the worst offenders is The Daily Mail who regularly uses that old trick of ‘interpreting’ statistics to fit what they want to report, rather than the actual conclusions of statistical reports. It’s easy to use statistics this way to trick anyone who’s never had experience of working with and interpreting statistics beyond their face value. This report in the New Statesman is an excellent example of outrageous media manipulation.

Part of the work I did before I moved to Tenerife involved interpreting statistics to produce reports for government ministers. Sounds dull, but it wasn’t (honest) and involved collaborating with all sorts of different and fascinating people around the North West of England.

An example of this was one particular report about the levels of unemployment in Manchester, especially in relation to minority ethnic groups. To cut a long report short, statistical figures showed that the two groups which had the lowest unemployment rates in the city were Chinese, where there was almost nil unemployment, and Manchester’s Indian residents who experienced very low levels of unemployment.

Seems straightforward doesn’t it? If you were Chinese or Indian you were more likely to find employment. Except it wasn’t quite like that. Sure, generally speaking, the Indian residents who had been born and educated in Britain were more likely to have better qualifications than every other group including white British, and were subsequently more employable because of that. The picture for the Chinese residents was completely different. A woman who worked for a Chinese community organisation in Manchester took me into Chinatown to explain why the statistics were completely flawed.

Many Chinese were as well educated as Indians and did have jobs, but whereas Indians were working in occupations which fitted their qualifications, their Chinese counterparts were working in family businesses – restaurants, supermarkets etc, and weren’t actually being employed in the sort of jobs or receiving the level of wages their qualifications deserved. There was virtually no unemployment, but their problem was one which was completely hidden by statistics.

When we left Britain, I thought I’d also left interpreting statistics behind, but no. Throughout each week we analyse statistics relating to our various websites and, saddo that I am, I still find them fascinating. In fact I’d go as far as to say they’re essential for understanding patterns relating to tourism in Tenerife and adjusting projects we’re working on to suit.

They tell us all sorts of things. We can tell when there are school holidays in Britain, we can tell when different nationalities’ seasons are due to begin, we can even tell what the weather has been like in Britain without going near a weather report, the little rows of figures are full of information.

But you do have to be careful with statistics. We occasionally meet people who quote statistics at us, some using volume as an indication of success. However, statistical info is one of those areas where size doesn’t necessarily matter; individual numbers are only component parts which need to be viewed as a whole to give them their true value.

The problem is that anyone who doesn’t know this might not always be able to see that bigger picture and that’s when manipulators like the Daily Mail pounce.

Social media gurus are predicting that printed newspapers may be in danger of becoming obsolete. After reading through one of Tenerife’s English language newspapers in a local bar, at half time during the Man Utd V Wolves game last night, I was persuaded to come round to their point of view.

I used to think that it was a half decent paper, but just about everything in it nowadays seems to be almost a straight regurgitation of official press releases. Even most of the photos were press releases. There wasn’t much originality and there was certainly nothing experiential. In other words, there was very little to give the person who represents a significant part of their target group, i.e. the visitor to Tenerife, the sort of information that could help them really get the most out of the island.

There are two factors which occurred to me whilst perusing the newspaper. The first was that, as it only came out every two weeks, much of the news was already old hat – so it failed in that department. But then it’s always been the same, so why does it stand out more as ‘yesterday’s news’ now?

The answer is basically this. Up until a couple of years ago if you didn’t read the Spanish press, the fortnightly English language papers were really the only means of keeping up to date with what was going on around the island. Nowadays, the rise of online info sites have changed all that. Anyone who regularly uses a computer already knows Tenerife’s news almost as it happens. So if you don’t have something different, something original to say – how can you continue to compete?

The second factor that occurred to me was about advertising. More people than ever are turning to the website to find out about their holiday destination – where to stay, what car hire companies to use, where the best bars are, what to do, where to eat… the list goes on and on.

Essentially what that means is that by the time a lot of people arrive on this island, they already have a good idea of where they’re going to hand over their hard earned holiday spends. The core of people who are going to be influenced by what they read in a paper is going to get smaller and smaller, whereas those who are influenced by what they read before they step foot on the silver bird bringing them to paradise is increasing all the time.

If I had a business on Tenerife that relied almost entirely on getting visitors through the door, I reckon I’d be rethinking my advertising strategy.

But hey this is Tenerife where many businesses still barely know the internet exists, let alone the incredible influence it has in modern society – the important thing that escapes them however, is this:

Millions of their potential clients from beyond the Island’s shores do.

This isn’t really about Lockerbie, but it is about being civilised.

I’m not patriotic or nationalistic; however some of the people from across the pond are pushing me to the point of painting my face blue and white and whipping out my Claymore.

I’ve got my own opinions about the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, but what has really got my back up about all this has been the sanctimonious over the top response from some Americans and the either seriously stupid, or blatantly hypocritical statements from the likes of Robert Mueller and Mike Mullen. I mean do we really have to take the following seriously.

“The suggestions that have followed – that there was an intermixing of Megrahi’s fate with British interests and oil exploration in Libya – are shocking.”

An American military commander shocked at the idea that dodgy decisions could be made because of potential lucrative business interests? Maybe he’s just naïve or maybe he’s truly shocked at the idea that a civilised nation like Scotland could possibly stoop to the sort of dirty dealings that the good ol’ U.S of A have been involved in for decades.

What has really concerned me is the vitriol coming out of America. It’s frightening in the extreme and doesn’t portray some Americans in a particularly pleasant light. The ‘Have Your Say’ debate on the BBC has comments which are a disgrace. I got caught up for about an hour yesterday reading in horror some of the things which were being said.

I really don’t respond well to someone telling me I should be ashamed to be Scottish, or that suddenly I’m an enemy because of a political decision which followed due Scottish legal process.

Comments have called for a boycott of Scottish goods, that Scots are cowards and Americans to cancel any holidays to the land of the purple hills. I’ve read that America should throw the UK (because some can’t differentiate between Scotland and the UK) out of NATO – really? I wasn’t aware that it’s up to them…what’s that? Oh yes, it isn’t.
I’ve just read that there’s even been a website set up called Boycott Scotland and the United Kingdom. What is wrong with these people? If we went off on one every time the US made a decision that we didn’t agree with we’d be up in arms every other day. But then maybe many American citizens aren’t aware of what their own government has gotten up to in the past.

The bottom line from many comments is that ‘you do what we want or you’re against us’. To me that sounds like bullying and threatening behaviour and makes me wonder about the stability of our so called friends to the west.

As it happens I’m not ashamed to be Scottish, but if I was an American reading HYS I might be embarrassed to hail from the so called Land of the Free.

I’ve always believed that America and Scotland enjoyed a good relationship, even during difficult periods, such as the time that the US Air Force accidentally napalmed and machine gunned the hell out of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on a hillside in Korea in 1950.

But it looks like there are those who still have trouble being able to tell their friends from their enemies.

(I needed to get this out of my system. I realise that most Americans probably aren’t reacting like Gung Ho GI Joes, there were some very sensible US based comments on HYS just as there were some stupid UK ones. Now I can maybe concentrate on something else)

I’ve just read a Spanish newspaper report about an investigation into Canary Islands’ president, Paulino Rivero who was accused of trying to ‘Jim’ll Fix it ‘ a job for his niece with the police force in Arona.

I have to say that when I read this I was shocked to the core… by the fact that it was considered newsworthy.

Call me Mr Cynical, but I thought good jobs going to family and friends etc was standard practice here. I’d have been more shocked to read a report about somebody landing a job through merit!!

Another report kept me reeling. It was about the authorities on Gran Canaria being outraged by a programme on national Spanish TV. They wanted an apology over the way Gran Canarians were portrayed in the show which reports bite sized snippets from Spain’s popular coastal resorts.

I watch this show, it’s one of the more enjoyable of Spanish TV programmes, and I can’t say I noticed anything particularly offensive. Gran Canaria’s outrage seemed to be because the programme showed obese topless local women and lads messing around on the beach.

Well, there are obese topless women on the beaches and the fact that Gran Canaria is embarrassed about this is, frankly, quite disturbing. There were scenes of topless and bottomless women, and men, shown on beaches all over Spain. Gran Canaria didn’t particularly stand out. In fact the only slightly embarrassing part of the programme was when they filmed in the ‘Brit’ spots at night and even that wasn’t anywhere near as damaging as I’ve seen on UK TV. But the authorities on Gran Canaria obviously weren’t concerned about how the Brits were portrayed.

It struck me, not for the first time, that they clearly haven’t a clue about how the most ‘touristy’ parts of the islands are portrayed on British TV. If the Canarian authorities thought that Spanish programme was bad, watching a couple of episodes of something like ‘Tenerife Uncovered’ would really blow their minds.

After the Fire

Posted: August 21, 2007 in News, Travel

Last week I returned from a trip to the south coast via the Valley of Santiago del Teide; the place where the Tenerife fires at the beginning of August, finally burnt out. It was frightening to see how close the fire actually came to the town; the earth around its outskirts charred and burnt. Worse was the small town of Valle de Arriba, which looked as though it had been completely encircled by the fire. It was quite amazing to see green oases completely surrounded by evidence of the fire, testament to the random course the fire took.
The area isn’t a stranger to the threat of being engulfed by the force of nature. A hundred years ago lava from the Chinyero volcano eruption lapped at the doors of Las Manchas and Valle de Arriba, and the villages were only saved by the intervention of a procession carrying a statue of Santa Ana to the edge of the lava flowed which duly slowed and stopped. My guess, looking at how close the fire came to some of the villages in the valley, that the saint is going to be credited with another miracle.

Despite the villages escaping relatively unscathed, the surrounding forests didn’t fare quite as well; some of the hills look as though they’ve received nature’s version of chemotherapy, the few remaining trees looking sparse and weak. However, there is hope; on many of the pines at the top of the valley I could see fresh green growth amongst the bare brown branches. They’re resilient these Canarian pines.

The worst area that I saw was the area around the Erjos pools, a favourite with walkers, which has been devastated by the fire, even though the countryside a couple of hundred yards farther on was completely untouched by the blaze. In fact any visitors travelling between Erjos and Icod de los Vinos wouldn’t be able to tell that there had been a fire.

Above Icod, I could see the path the fire took. A broad band of copper coloured pines stretches across the hillside back towards the source of the fire at Los Realejos. To anyone who didn’t know better, it might look like a forest with its autumn colours on display, but of course, we don’t have autumnal colours here.
I couldn’t tell from the road, but my hope is that these pines will be like the ones near Santiago; that there’s still life in the trees.
 

Tenerife Fire

Woke up on Monday of last week to see a massive smoke cloud billowing into the sky from what looked like the side of the volcano.  First thoughts were, ‘shit, the volcano’s gone up’.However, it turned out to be a massive forest fire in the upper reaches of Los Realejos, a municipality that lies on the other side of the valley from us. It was obvious from the smoke cloud that this fire wasn’t the norm and with temperatures pushing 40 degrees and the Sorroco wind fanning the flames the situation was likely to get worse before it got better. To make matters worse, fires had broken out on three of the surrounding islands and our copters were absent, fighting a blaze on La Palma. 

Fires aren’t strangers to these islands, especially during dry summers, so I expected there were emergency plans ready to be put in place when, rather than if, a ‘big one’ occurred.TV coverage didn’t fill me with faith though, throughout the day images were screened of bushes spontaneously combusting next to yellow uniformed fire-fighters, who seemed to be staring at the flames, unsure of what to do next, but as camera work here can be unbelievably frustrating, it’s possible that the cameraman didn’t figure that shots of fire-fighters actually tackling the fires would be reassuring to viewers. 

As the afternoon progressed, the fire spread despite the return of the helicopters which tried to douse the affected areas by dropping gigantic buckets of water, but by nightfall darkness revealed how terrifying the situation had become. From our terrace, we could see two large areas of the ridge above the valley in flames, the sky a deep orange. The TV reported that the helicopters were unable to continue working after dark, but then came rumours that seem too incredulous to be true, that the fire-fighters on the ground had also ceased fighting the fires after dark. Whatever the truth, by morning the fire was pretty much out of control and had spread westwards, destroying farmland, houses and livestock. A friend in a remote agricultural valley was awakened at four in the morning and told she would have to evacuate as the fire was almost at the head of the valley where she lived.

We put her up for the night and together we spent much of the day watching with dismay as the blaze continued to rage, destroying some of the most beautiful countryside on the island as well as many people’s homes and livelihoods despite the best attempts of fire-fighters, volunteers and helicopters.

By Wednesday the wind subsided, the weather cooled and the fire changed course and headed south west, thankfully for our friend bypassing her valley by a few kilometres, but unfortunately devastating the beauty spot of Masca. As the day progressed it was finally brought under control, or had run its course, depending on who you talk to. 

Local news reported that up to 13,000 people had been evacuated, and up to 15,000 hectares of land destroyed in what was turning out to be the worst ecological disaster to hit these islands for years. As we scoured the internet for some accurate and objective reports about the extent of the fire, we were horrified, but not surprised, by some British press stories which, completely ignoring those who were actually affected by the fires and had turned them into sensational reports about tourism. Headlines such as ‘Tourists Flee Tenerife fires’ conjured up images of tourist grabbing their beach towels and fleeing across the sand with the fire snapping at their feet.  

If you happen to be planning on visiting Tenerife soon and are having second thoughts because of the stories about the fires, don’t worry, no tourist was ever in danger, if they had been, the outcome might have been a bit different; at worse they were merely inconvenienced by not being able to visit some popular beauty spots. The truth is many tourists in major resorts in the south of the island probably didn’t know much about what was happening on the other side of the island, but then reports about the destruction of farmland, ancient forests and livestock wouldn’t sell as many papers.