We don’t tend to share news we hear about grand plans on Tenerife – theme parks, luxury hotel complexes… racing circuits etc. for one very good reason.
Ambitious projects launched with a fanfare and a ticker tape parade of press releases often never see the light of day. So we don’t get too excited about things until the point some politician is cutting tape with a pair of scissors at its inauguration.
We learned this shortly after arriving on Tenerife when our map of Puerto de la Cruz bore the legend ‘futuro parque marítimo’ on the bit where there is actually a free car park. Some wit told us it had been the ‘futuro parque marítimo’ for 30 years. Plans for the development of Puerto’s harbour area are still regularly muted.
Recently I read the Formula One race track, Circuito de Tenerife, in Granadilla de Abona had, to use an appropriate term, stalled in the pits. In August 2016 the first stone was laid with an announcement along the lines of it being the realisation of a dream. A year later and El Día newspaper reported the only stone laid to date was still the one symbolically placed by Tenerife President, Carlos Alonso in August 2016.
Not so long ago an ambitious development was called to a halt in the south of Tenerife because the contractor had been too ‘creative’ in their interpretation of the terms of their contract, veering significantly from what had been agreed. Before moving to Tenerife I would have been gobsmacked at the idea a professional businessperson would basically ignore the terms of their contract and do their own thing.
But a cavalier approach to rules, regulations and paying what was owed seemed quite commonplace when we first arrived in the island, not that we knew it at that time. Because we both had careers which involved regular dealings with CEOs in some of the UK’s top companies, spanning various occupational sectors, we expected a similar level of professionalism when it came to business dealings on Tenerife.
The reality was somewhat of a surprise. A laissez-faire approach to observing rules and regulations stretched to politics.
Some long-standing mayors behaved more like feudal lords of their manor, in one case using local police almost like henchmen in a personal feud. This is no second hand sensational gossip. We heard tales of this, went to investigate and experienced it ourselves. Another mayor was a wonderfully colourful character who was rarely out of the local headlines, one time for allegedly physically attacking someone at a fiesta for carrying a flag he didn’t want brandished in ‘his town’. The same mayor was reported at being outraged at having to account for how European funds were being used.
Things have improved since then, especially in politics where a younger breed of politicians seem more progressive and aware they’re part of a bigger structure which requires them to comply with certain guidelines/rules.
In business though the old cavalier attitude to actually sticking to contractual terms still raises its head now and again. It has us banging our heads metaphorically against the wall at golden opportunities which have been utterly wasted because of a lack of professionalism and business acumen.
Humboldt’s Mirador overlooking the Orotava Valley provides a perfect example which encapsulates the whole gamut of what I’m referring to. It was built using EU funding, but the shenanigans involved in completing the project dragged on for so long that the ‘new’ building fell in to such a state it had to be renovated before it had even opened. It took a whopping 11 years to finally complete the project. Humboldt’s Mirador was a popular place to visit for lunch, dinner, or just a beer accompanied by superb views of the valley. But it only remained open for just over 3 years. It closed not because business was poor, but because the contractor broke the terms of their contract by subcontracting to someone else, who then subcontracted to another company. The legalities involved with sorting the mess out means a building which cost millions to construct remains unused.
Then there was the San Pablo food market in La Laguna, a contemporary gourmet palace of food stalls in a colonial mansion. We were thrilled Tenerife had a buzzing food market of the likes we’d seen in some cosmopolitan European cities. But it lasted only a few months. Newspapers reported a commercial fiasco consisting of a lack of investment, unpaid bills and ultimately closure by the authorities because of that old Tenerife chestnut, a businessperson being creative with the terms of the contract.
Five hundred years ago Tenerife and the Canary Islands were the gateway to the New World. When you learn how business can sometimes be conducted on the islands, it seems as though there are some who still believe they’re operating in a frontier land where rules are flexible.
Until more realise those days have long gone, expect to read about more failed projects and wasted business opportunities.