Why a Recent Blog Trip to Tenerife was a PR Disaster

I admit that I harp on about blog trips and Tenerife…but for what I believe is good reason. Andy and I have documented our thoughts about blog trips and Tenerife before; done properly and they can result in priceless promotion of the island but done badly and they can do more harm than good.

If you want evidence of why we’re concerned about the potential damage blog trips to Tenerife can cause if not thought through properly, read on…and weep.

The latest blog trip to Tenerife seemed to have good potential. We were aware that Low Cost Holidays were planning a decent programme that would show some travel bloggers a different side to Tenerife. So far so good…and then the first tweets started to come in and it became horrifyingly clear where the bloggers were staying – Ten Bel in Costa del Silencio.

I don't have any pics of Ten Bel - it's just too ugly to photograph. This is nearby Las Galletas.

If I were going to pick the worst possible location in which to base travel bloggers I’m not sure I could beat Ten Bel. It’s a remnant of tourism past on Tenerife and represents exactly the out-dated image that many people have about Tenerife; the image that prevents the savvy traveller from putting Tenerife on their list of places to visit. As a double whammy the bloggers seemed to be on an all-inclusive basis, so Tenerife’s cuisine wasn’t done any favours either.

Whilst all the bloggers were pleasantly surprised by the little part of Tenerife’s countryside they explored on foot, their thoughts about their choice of base should have come as no surprise to anyone.

Writer Andrea Wren’s comments about Ten Bel were acerbically funny, describing it as follows.

‘…think giant, concrete car park decorated with red and white caution tape around crumbling parts of the pool, with worse customer service than you’d get from traffic wardens, plonked in a dump of a resort rumoured for muggings, and then you’re still nowhere near how bad it was.’

Her description is difficult to argue with,except maybe the ‘rumoured for muggings’ which is a bit harsh.

She ended her blog by questioning whether there were actually any nice places to relax on Tenerife after walking.

OUCH.

Las Galletas Marina at the opposite end of town from Ten Bel.

Blogger and outdoor aficionado, Jon Patterson was a bit kinder, although he started by saying that Tenerife was one of those destinations that he would normally choose to avoid. Me too Jon, until I was persuaded to ‘have a look’ at the whole island. Jon loved the countryside but had this to say about his base.

‘Despite arriving with an open mind I was disappointed to find the town we were staying in, Las Galletas, was every bit the tired, run down resort I had feared it might be.’

Sarah Gardner in her blog Travels with my Moleskin echoed others’ thoughts:  ‘The first impressions of the island confirmed expectations; arriving in the south was like arriving in any tourist resort across the Mediterranean – bars, fish n chip shops (even a Chinese!), sprawling hotel complexes and worst of all, half built concrete buildings, their metal girders twisted up towards the blazing sun.’

All the bloggers seemed to have more or less the same perception of Tenerife as the one described on Travel with a Mate:
‘My idea of Tenerife was very much in the realms of 80?s Brit abroad culture, all-exclusive pool holiday where Brits came to catch a bit of sun whilst dining on fish n’chips and being entertained by Butlin’s style entertainment.’

He discovered the reality matched his perceptions:  ‘As I arrived at the hotel pool around 10pm my worst fears were confirmed as I realised Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” was being played in the bar and there wasn’t an ironic smile in sight.’

From a PR point of view it was about as bad as it can get – unless the place the bloggers have described has you rushing to stuff the footie shirts into your suitcase..

Selling Fish at Las Galletas - again at the opposite end of Las Galletas from Ten Bel which is usually classed as being in Costa del Silencio anyway.

Despite all the travel bloggers waxing lyrical about the countryside they discovered, they all also described an image of Tenerife that simply doesn’t apply to most of the rest of the island. But it is one that is still held by many. Their honest accounts (all credit to each, they told it as they found it) won’t have helped.

This is exactly the sort of publicity disaster that can be caused by not getting a blog trip right.

I’d love to know what Low Cost Holidays felt about the return on their ‘investment’.

If you don’t understand the destination or travel bloggers for that matter, mistakes will continue to be made.
The Tenerife Tourist Board already know our views and concerns and it’s up to them how they proceed with any officially organised blog trips. But I have some advice for any travel company or private business out there thinking about organising a blog trip to Tenerife.

Don’t scrimp on any aspects of a blog trip, it can backfire spectacularly if you do.

Finally, there is at least one serious, but major flaw that is continually made in relation to planning blog trips to Tenerife.

If you don’t know what that is…then don’t proceed. You will not be doing the island or your company any favours.

13 Comments

  1. You make some worthy points Jack. I hate to come away from any organised press or blog trip with less than positive things to say, and I was really happy that I was still able to find a lot of beauty in Tenerife on the walks we did when on this trip, regardless of the accommodation.

    I think the one thing that companies and PRs have yet to cotton onto though with blog trips, is that bloggers do have a lot more freedom to be honest than journalists working for publications which want to please advertisers and only publish ‘positive, upbeat’ pieces.

    A blogger represents her or himself, and has their own reputation and integrity to protect when they publish their reviews. We have a duty to our readers to tell it as we experience it, and it’s the one key thing that differentiates blog-writing from the sugar-coated features you find in print publications.

    • ‘bloggers do have a lot more freedom to be honest…’ – Absolutely Andrea, and any PR, travel company or tourist board that hasn’t grasped that potential hand grenade yet doesn’t know travel bloggers well enough and should probably steer clear of arranging blog trips.

      This particular blog trip was such a wasted opportunity and also illustrated that if travel or PR companies have a specific objective they want to achieve (which they all should), in this case promoting a different side of Tenerife from the one that is perceived by many, they should at least have a good knowledge of the destination so that there are no spectacular screw-ups.

      Good blog trips can’t really be done on the cheap and I think that was the root of the problem with your trip. There were so many alternative and much, much better options; although, ultimately I’m guessing that Low Cost would want to reach a mainstream market so the reality of a blog trip of this nature is that it would always involve staying in a resort rather than in one of Tenerife’s fabby rural or boutique hotels.

      I`m still reeling that anyone would put travel bloggers in Ten Bel and not suspect for a second how you would react. It would be funny…if it wasn’t so potentially damaging.

  2. This is beyond belief! Bad enough the oodles of errors and rubbish written about Tenerife, without this! Everywhere has its downside, especially now with the lack of funds to make improvements, but no need to magnify them!

    And sorry to say, having several friends who live in the area, and in the interests of honesty the rumours are true :=(

    • I’d read in the Spanish press about a couple of incidents in Las Galletas a few months ago but I hadn’t thought it was rife (word used by a Ten Bel reviewer on Tripadvisor) enough for the resort to get a reputation for muggings. To be honest I thought it was a bit of ex-pat exag.

  3. I have to see it’s refreshing to see that the bloggers said what they saw & experienced, & didn’t produce the semi-advertorial ‘thanks for my free holiday’ puff that fills so many travel columns these days.

    If you put me in the kind of accommodation, and show me the places they describe, I think I’d be pretty scathing, too.

    However, I did once go to Tenerife (on my own dollar!) and, although we only spent a few hours there … it was a port of call on a cruise I was on … they showed us a totally different side of the island. You can see it at http://travelrat.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/tenerife-video/

  4. Gosh, after reading this I now consider myself even more lucky that I was able to connect with Linda and see so much of the beauty of the island.

    The rest of the post, as well as the ones you linked at the top, have got me pondering many things with blog trips and such. My blog is only just now starting to get PR attention, so it’s good to bear these things in mind (all-inclusive vs. local dining, wi-fi the whole time, not scrimping on the cost, making sure to be honest even when it’s awful, etc.) as I move into that realm. Thanks for all the great info!

    • Thanks Katrina. Absolutely re Linda. Although everyone knows Tenerife, there still aren’t that many people (writers/bloggers) who experience and write about the whole of Tenerife.

      It’s right to highlight some of the important aspects that both anyone planning a blog trip and those participating in blog trips should consider. The question of ‘being honest’ is one that might come up more and more if blog trips to the more popular holiday destinations ( e.g.Tenerife) become more common. A purpose built resort is a purpose built resort when all’s said and done.

  5. I’m a blogger, although not technically a travel blogger, I will try to tie in holidays with photography posts and have written a few blog entries about Tenerife. They’re all positive too, thanks to the choice of hotel and the resort. I’m heading back to Tenerife for the 3rd time on the trot in February and can’t wait. Previous occasions we stayed in Puerto Santiago and it’s a fantastic place and the Barcelo a stunning hotel.

    A blogger has a reputation to think about and I find it hard to accept that someone could suggest that their experiences of one resort, one hotel and one stay could be indicitive of the whole island. There is both negative and positive in everything, in every place.

  6. What a post!
    So organicing a blogtrip is easy….
    What was the goal?
    I hope the organicer is happy with the results, from my side I would only say, I’m so so sad these people have missed the island.
    A different side, to offer a different side , first you have to know the side you want to show, I think there’s a lack of that here.
    I’m sorry for my island, really sorry, and for all those , as Jack and Andrea, that on daily basis, do their very best to offer unique info and tips to discover Tenerife. Just few e mails would have been enough to get good tips, a bit of reading a short research….

  7. I’m not a travel blogger but nipped over to Tenerife this Christmas 2011, as I had to take the holiday and found a cheap place to stay (private let in Alondras Park).

    I was quite astonished at how derelict much of the area is, and that which isn’t is really quite tired. It may have been a good place in the 60’s 70’s. I also encountered people who were staying in Ten Bel and other hotels and didn’t hear anything good, especially on the entertainment scene.

    As I’ve understood it, the long term mayor of Arona and his family own property in Los Cristianos and have gone out of their way to kill tourism in Costa Del Silencio so they can cash in at Los Cristianos. That’s why some of the buildings got half built and then the developers just took off as there was no future.

    I’d say the problem here is not to do with the general economic situation, more the general oppression that has been applied for decades. For this reason also one cannot take CDS as a typical example of Tenerife, it’s circumstances are peculiar.

    Las Galletas is actually a different place to CDS, and it is a pretty normal Spanish village. It probably gained great benefit from tourism at it’s height but, in effect, the tourism has gone elsewhere.

    If people want to promote tourism here there is a hell of a lot to do before they actually start on marketing. I’d say it could be done but I really don’t see anyone investing in it, The place is dying more and more and the people who have businesses there can only see more decline.

    I’d say there isn’t a serious mugging problem here but there are some druggies and locals say to avoid the Morocan areas (which I guess I never discovered. But with the influx of Eastern Europeans all over Spain handbag snatching has reached even the nicest areas. I’ve never seen so many police out in Benalmadena as there were in the run up to Christmas!

    So don’t take this as typical of Tenerife, it has special circumstances. But also bear in mind Los Cristianos has more facilities but it’s also an urban centre which will carry more risks.

    If Costa Del Silencio accommodation prices track low enough then it may be an ok place to catch a bit of sun but don’t go there if you’re after a classy holiday, it’s the wrong place. Not sure whether I’ll ever go back there (and take my saxophone with me lol), maybe, maybe not. It may depend on whether the business owners in the area can get their heads together, which there’s no sign of at the mo.

    Jan 2012

    • Thanks for the comment Jim. Rumours of politicians with money invested in property in the currently more popular resort areas of Tenerife are quite commonplace. I’ve heard similar tales of other places that have been allowed to run down a bit because it suits some for the masses to head to the latest new darling of Tenerife tourism…even politicians themselves have made quite damning claims about dodgy dealings in certain locations.

      But ultimately I think you hit the nail on the head with ‘…in effect, the tourism has gone elsewhere.’ The development of Costa Adeje has left places like CDS looking like a very poor relation…but it’s not alone.

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