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Puerto’s “changing image” needs a new promotional direction as well 

Puerto is on the up and up, it has turned the corner, the recovery is well and truly underway and there is a feel good feeling coming from the town hall and spreading throughout the town.

Have I been drinking? You might well ask, but no, I am stone cold sober, although, I am a bit lost for words, pondering, sitting here trying to justify what I have just written.

Where is the evidence? Visitor numbers for January are 8.4 per cent up on last year, it has just been announced. That is good news for the town. However, one month doesn’t make a year and what of the figures for February; surely they must be available by now, perhaps they are not quite as favourable.

Statistics, don’t you hate them, it is so easy to manipulate them to portray whatever message you want to give, be it optimistic, realistic, or even for that matter, pessimistic. I would like to think my opinions sit firmly in the middle camp, but I am sure there are those who will disagree.

Here is one for you, one that has not been widely broadcast; Puerto’s overall visitor numbers for 2015 were less than in 2014. Not by much I have to say, a few thousand, an amount easily explained away as a ‘minor blip’ by those of an optimistic ilk. For me however, the drop muddies the water slightly, not quite the sustained growth from the all time low figure of 2012, we have been led to believe. (A pessimist would just see it as a negative figure).

There have been calls over the last few years for more and better equipped hotels. In fact, the state of the town’s hotels, many of which were described as old and tired, bore the brunt of the blame for the decline in visitor numbers.

Regardless of whether this blame was justified most of the hotels have undergone refurbishments, some more major than others.

Still, it seems, this is not enough and the cry is for more 5* accommodation. Is there a demand in Puerto? I am not convinced. However, we were told the former La Chiripa Garden had been bought by a German company and would open as a 5* after extensive refurbishments. Work was to commence early in 2015, but has yet to begin. Having second thoughts, do you think, or just the usual ‘red tape’ delay.

Then in January, right out of the blue, a ‘Brand New 5* Hotel’ was to open in Puerto, or at least, that is what the press release implied. The reality couldn’t be more different, the Atlantis, a former 4* had changed owners and gained an extra rating in the process, or so it seems.

When it comes to 5* hotels Puerto will never be able to compete with the resorts in the south so should it even be trying too? I will use as an example the Atlantis press release which described the hotel as being right on the beach. It does conjure up an image of an idyllic setting. What it omits to say is, you have to go out the back gate and cross the road, or that the beach has virtually no facilities and has been waiting for refurbishment for years. What I am trying to say is that 5* hotels need a 5* location not a 3* one.

The hotel industry has played its part and with occupancy figures for 2015 of 63.6 per cent there is certainly plenty of scope for the increase in visitor numbers that the feel good factor are expecting to attract.

What has changed in the town, apart from the enthusiasm of those at the helm? The simple answer is not a lot. They will be quick to sing the praises of San Telmo, but that change is merely cosmetic, once shiny railings where a wall used to be is not a big selling point for the town. I won’t bore you with a list of things that desperately need to be done, everybody knows what is on it and we have all heard every excuse by now for why it hasn’t been done.

To be fair most of the outstanding projects are dependent on support from outside the municipality and who knows when that support will be forthcoming, especially if it is coming from Madrid.

I have known Puerto for over 30 years, have experienced firsthand the so called heyday years the town enjoyed, but those days are long gone and let’s be honest, they are never coming back. The resort was in the right place at the right time during the emergence of what was the European package holiday.

Traveller expectations have changed a lot over this time span, the days of lying in the sun to get that must have tan and of propping up the resort bars until late into the night have gone, at least, for the vast majority. Air travel became more affordable, long haul became a realistic option and more exotics locations suddenly became far more attractive and adventurous holiday destinations. Closer to home bigger and better resorts opened up and Puerto’s visitors, quite literally, headed south. What did Puerto do? Absolutely nothing; the town was living in the past.

So how do you sell a location which is probably past its best? That is the problem facing the current administration; thankfully they have had the sense to drop the all year round sun, sea and sand image the town had been plagued with for far too long.

What is the current marketing strategy? The town is not a family resort; visitors tend to arrive as couples and are more mature in years. What brings them here and how do you attract more. Puerto is in the process of being rebranded as the location where you come to ‘live with the emotions’. I know, it is a bit of a tough one to get your head around and I am sure the message has lost a bit in translation, but translated it must be to attract foreign visitors . I think the message they are trying to convey is that the town is the ideal location for the visitor to immerse themselves into local lifestyles, tastes, traditions, cultures and its history, to see the town as though through the eyes of its citizens.

A bit ambitious isn’t it and not really realistic, I’d rather they tried to sell the town as a great base from which to explore the north, the best part of the island. For history, there is a La Laguna and La Orotava, for charm, Icod de los Vinos and Garachico, for local lifestyles, where better than Tegueste, Buenavista or even Masca.

If it is scenery you are after you are spoiled for choice, Anaga to the east, Teno to the west and Teide to the south. Likewise all are great destinations to explore on foot; there plenty of well marked routes for all levels of walkers. All of this is just a short journey from Puerto by car, or a slightly longer journey on the local buses, for the more adventurous.

Puerto is a great town to stay in and there are plenty of great restaurants to suit all tastes, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket, you will soon soak up the town’s atmosphere and tire of walking its pedestrian streets, there really is a need to be mobile to get the most from any holiday here.

Of course there is one other thought to take into consideration when planning any holiday, one which can probably account for the apparent increase in recent visitor numbers. Tenerife, and Puerto in particular is a very safe location and that is more than can be said for so many other popular destinations in recent years.