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Monday, August 20, 2007

Tenerife Myth the island is just a big resort

Playa de las Américas

The mainstream media, particularly the "sensationalist" British type, but including some of the ones that I had previously trusted to be above that kind of thing and, be better informed, came up with some really misleading (and, I feel, irresponsible) headlines when reporting on the recent fire on the island, with exaggerations of the facts and plain untruths that are as potentially damaging to the islands, financially, as the fires themselves.

Indeed, I'm not alone in this opinion and, representatives of the tourist industry in the Canary Islands are asking for measures to "palliate the damage caused by the sensationalist international media". You can hardly blame them, as reading many of the British media's headlines, you might have been led to imagine scenes of tourists running from the beaches into the sea to save themselves. The truth is no tourist was ever in any danger.

Apart from the fact that "Nature ruined, native birds homeless, farmers affected" is not a relevant and compelling headline to the average Brit who knows Tenerife only as a holiday destination (thanks to the British press), reading these reports, it becomes clear why many assume (there's no excuse, they should fact check, or ask someone on the island) that tourist resorts would be affected, because they appear to think that is all there is: that Tenerife is just a big resort with only beaches and hotels.

Here are just some examples of the terrible headlines I saw:

Holiday chaos for British tourists as fires devastate Canary Islands | the Daily Mail
(Headline and story repeated exactly by This is London)
This is what I expect from the Daily Mail, but honestly, the only tourists in Tenerife who may have been in "chaos" were a handful of not so happy campers in the mountains. None of them were British, as far as I have been able to ascertain. No British tourists in the resorts were affected at all.  Nevertheless, in their usual fear mongering fashion, the Daily Mail began this article, "Holiday-makers are being urged to check with their tour operators before they travel after the Canary Island's top tourist holiday resorts have been left devastated by forest fires." There was never any need for such wasting of tour operators' time and the resorts were not devastated. Massaging the truth is bad enough. That kind of pure invention is criminal. As proof, it seems, that they're not interested in the truth (only circulation), my first-hand, factual, comment does not appear. Presumably it was rejected.

British tourists in waiting game as fires sweep holiday islands - Times Online
You really expect better from The Times, don't you? What would these tourists have been waiting for exactly, a bus perhaps? What's even worse is that you have know-nothing idiots who have clearly never even been to the island, commenting there and advising Brits to stay away. Worse yet, I tried to comment here too, explaining that I was one of those people evacuated and telling the truth of the matter. My comment was not posted, nor have The Times contacted me, as I invited them to do. They say, "The British Embassy in Madrid said that six British residents were among those evacuated." Well, I can personally list 5 and I really don't know that many British people on the island. I'm sure the true number is a bit higher, still, by their own figure here, they must be able to work out that a half dozen or so residents is hardly "British tourists in waiting game". No flights were disrupted even. This is just not true. They also say, "So far, tourist resorts have remained largely unaffected.", which should read, "Tourist resorts remained TOTALLY unaffected."

Britons evacuated from Canary Islands - Telegraph
Gee, are they talking about me and those 5 others again? Well, actually no, as they say, "Wildfires sweeping across Spain's Canary Islands have forced authorities to evacuate around 11,000 people, including several hundred British tourists and residents." Several hundred now? That number seems to have grown faster than the forest fire itself!

Tourist alert as Canary Islands burn | Metro.co.uk
"More than 11,000 people including holidaymakers have been evacuated." More than 11,000 were evacuated, but these were not the resort tourists that the word "holidaymakers" leads you to believe. They were 10,994 locals and us 6 (see above).

Tourists Evacuate As Holiday Island Fires Take Hold (from This Is Lancashire)
Clutching at straws for an angle, their piece begins, "HUNDREDS of Bolton holidaymakers could be among tourists being evacuated from hotels on the Canary Islands." Could being the operative word. No tourist from Bolton, nor anywhere else, was ever affected.

Spain: Thousands Flee Canary Islands Fires - New York Times
Not quite as bad as the British examples, though it still gives the impression of people fleeing off the island. All that was required was to go to the safe coastal areas (you know, like the resorts) and out of the mountains.

Canary Islands - Arsonists at large in biggest ever fires.
John McGinty, writing (plagiarizing mostly and, the problem when you copy untrue reports ...), takes my award for most alarming headline. He talks about more than 5 arrests too, which is news to me. I've heard a rumor that they may have been one arrest in Tenerife, but that was a long time after July 31st when this article was published. Strange that, isn't it?

Even the BBC were running a sensationalist story, but I notice they later changed their headline and content to something more realistic.

It doesn't help that, in many of these reports, they are talking about both the Gran Canaria and Tenerife fires in the same breath. In Gran Canaria some visitors (I don't know nationalities) were evacuated from rural accommodation inland, in the mountains. Putting the two together, not being specific (deliberately, or not) and calling these people either "tourists" or "holidaymakers" gives an entirely false impression. Not only could this affect bookings, where some might think that there is a risk and not want to come here, but what about the families back in the UK of people who were on holiday in Tenerife at the time? If they had read those reports, they will probably have suffered days of unnecessary anguish. That I know to be the case from worried calls I got from my own relatives.

Apart from some yellow smoke, high in the sky above them, holidaymakers in the resorts would have been pretty oblivious to the fire and will not have considered any need to phone home to say that they were OK. Someone on the spot saw the sky and "thought they were simply storm clouds", until they learned the truth, but then only from reports on local television. "Holidaymakers" would not have been watching local television (which is, after all, in Spanish), so they probably remained none the wiser.

Now, I would still invite the British media, if any of them are monitoring blogs, to contact me if they would like some true stories about the island, but lets just try to get this whole "resort" idea into perspective shall we?

How much of Tenerife is a "resort"?

The area of the whole of the island of Tenerife is 2,034 km² (785 sq.mi).

Well, I could stop there really, because you don't need me to tell you that nobody ever made a resort as big as 785 square miles in size. But lets take the area of the district of Adeje, which has part of the resort of Las Americas or Costa Adeje, of 105.94 km². Add the area of the district of Arona, which has the other part of Las Americas, Los Cristianos, and Costa del Silencio, at 81.79 km², making 187.73 km² in total. The major part of those two districts are mountains, villages, proper towns and anything but "resort", but we'll ignore that fact, because that will compensate for Puerto de La Cruz (all 8.73 km² of it), Los Gigantes and other small coastal areas dedicated to tourism that I'm not counting. All in all then and, being really generous, at most only 187.73 km² - about 9.2% - out of the total of 2,034 km² of the island of Tenerife is a "resort". In truth, it's probably not much more than half of that area.

Tenerife: Geographic introduction: situation and size

What's the rest of Tenerife made up of?

Well, almost 45% of the island is protected and that includes vast areas of mountains and forests. Of the rest of the island, there are lots of historic villages, "normal" towns and cities providing work and housing for "normal", ordinary citizens; there are farms, banana plantations, golf courses and, lots of huge areas that are simply empty, because the terrain is such that you can't do anything else with it. This is all a far cry from being only a "resort".

Now just imagine how you would react if someone said, "Oh, don't go to England, it's just a resort" (full of kiss-me-quick hats, rock candy and pleasure rides), after the only place they'd heard of was Blackpool. You'd not only think they were wrong, but you'd think they were being pretty unreasonable and totally illogical, wouldn't you? Yeah, well so do we!


Brian Ogg said...

Dear Pamela

I agree with everything you say about the fire.
Just one small point. I am a Puerto resident and I feel it's inaccurate to lump Puerto in with "resorts" like Playa or Los Cristianos.

Sure Puerto probably makes most of its income from tourism and expat residents, but its retains its Canarian feel and way of life.

And a short trip on the bus to, say, Oratava takes you almost completely away from the tourist nightmare of the South.

I enjoy your blog. Kepp up the good work

Brian Ogg

Anonymous said...

Oh, I quite agree Brian that Puerto is not a bit like those places in the south and that this is a "worst case scenario" listing every location that contains "holiday hotels", even the ones that are not completely ruined.

It's difficult, without official figures, but I just want those people who think Tenerife is 100% resort to have some better idea of the reality.

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