Tuesday, 26 October 2010

What Does Going Native in Tenerife Actually Mean?

Going Native in Tenerife might mean different things to different people but for us it means having the type of experiences that the Canarios enjoy throughout the year.

However, it doesn't have to mean going to a remote location where you're the only tourist. The real Tenerife (not purpose built for tourism) is found everywhere, even in some of the main resorts if you look for it.

When we published our first guidebook about Tenerife, Island Drives, someone commented to me 'Tenerife doesn't need another guidebook'. Obviously we had a different point of view otherwise we wouldn't have bothered and here's why.

My copy of the Rough Guide completely omitted huge chunks of the north coast between Puerto de la Cruz and La Laguna – the route that every traveller pre mass tourism journeyed. A walking guidebook for Tenerife I bought incredibly didn't mention the Anaga Mountains at all. Nobody seemed to be writing about what being at a fiesta was really like so I didn't know about what actually happened on the night of San Juan, or at the bathing of the goats in Puerto harbour, and I certainly didn't know that thousands upon thousands of people and animals descended on towns I'd never heard off to celebrate obscure saints. Nobody mentioned that there were loads of free music festivals and the best of original live music and most buzzing nocturnal scenes weren't necessarily in the places frequented by tourists. Whilst travel articles in British newspapers seemed to be all about the new Tenerife being luxury hotels on the south west coast, the old Tenerife was going about its business more or less ignored and subsequently it was generally only the Canarios who were going to all the really interesting events - it still is. Whenever the 'old' Tenerife was mentioned in the same papers it would more often than not be Garachico or, if the author was being really adventurous, Roque de las Bodegas; both of which which were (are) sometimes described as though Atlantis had just been discovered...despite being favourite coach excursion stops.

The point is that everybody was writing about almost exactly the same thing and although Spanish  speakers knew about all of the juiciest stuff, most of what really made Tenerife tick was still a secret to us English speakers.

Writing for Living Tenerife for four years involved researching small towns, sitting in libraries and talking to people in town halls and cultural centres etc. The experience opened our eyes to all the things that rarely if ever made it onto the printed page in English and so our guidebooks and numerous blogs were born.

There's far too much happening on Tenerife to cover all the interesting events in one guidebook. However, Going Native in Tenerife includes what we consider to be the best of what we think it means to go native here, along with tips and advice to help people visiting Tenerife for a week, fortnight, month or longer experience the Tenerife that the Canarios know and love.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Is it Quiet on Tenerife?

A couple of weeks ago we were in a bar in Puerto de la Cruz watching Manchester United sneak a win against Valencia in the Champion's League.
The bar wasn't busy and the Canarian barman commented, “I thought that we'd have a lot more people in to watch Manchester United.”
We just smiled and said nothing because ever year at this time he makes exactly the same comment.

Puerto de la Cruz is busy throughout the summer with Spanish mainlanders who abandon the resort as soon as their children return to school in September. The British winter visitors don't really hit full swing until later in October. And in the period in between there is always a bit of a lull in bars aimed at a British client̬le rather than local residents (actually there's a lull for the whole of the summer in bars aimed at the Brits in Puerto). Subsequently, the bar isn't full for football games at this time of year (exact same thing happens after Easter). This pattern, (not picked up on by everyone it seems) plays out year after year as sure as night follows day. Last year, however, it was different in as much as even during high British season it never really got as busy in the bar as it had been in previous years Рthe crisis bit deep.

But have times changed and corners been turned on Tenerife?

Recently we were in Playa de las Américas covering amongst a number of things, nightlife in the resort. The area around the Safari centre was relatively busy, but the strip of cabaret bars at Parque de la Paz were packed to capacity with people. At some bars it was standing room only whilst others we couldn't even get into. It was great to see and suggested that in tourist terms, things were looking healthy around that area anyway. Similarly when we moved on to the 'Patch', two of the three bars we went to there were also packed. There were bars that were quiet, but to be cruelly honest, they looked dire.

During the weekend we met with the manager of the Mare Nostrum Resort and the manager of the Arona Gran Hotel in Los Cristianos. One had 96% occupancy, the other 85% occupancy.  Facts that paint a promising picture.

We also receive official tourism statistics from the Tenerife government and these show that visitors to Tenerife are up around 8% more than last year; mainly in the south of Tenerife. The north (i.e. Puerto de la Cruz) is still experiencing a tourism crisis for a number of reasons. But unless you frequent the few bars aimed at the Brits, you don't notice it in the same way you would at a purpose built resort. There are even less tourists in La Laguna and Santa Cruz, but you wouldn't class either as being quiet. Places on Tenerife that have a large resident Canarian population are never quiet. In fact if you're the sort of independent traveller that likes to immerse yourself in local culture that isn't touristy, the diminishing British tourists might even be a plus point.

Overall though from a tourism point of view, the signs are all there that the future is looking brighter than it has for a couple of years. However, that doesn't mean that everything in the garden is ever going to be rosy again.

But back to the question is it quiet on Tenerife? If you're going to a small purpose built resort with a couple of AI hotels, then yes. If you're going to a northern resort and looking for the Brit scene then yes again..and if you're going to a rural out-of-the-way location then hell yes. On the other hand if you're going to the cabaret capital of Tenerife in the south, or sticking to fiestas and where the locals go in the north then quiet is definitely not a word that will spring to mind.

And if it does, you've cocked up your research...and it serves you right for not buying Going Native in Tenerife.