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Does “thriving” Puerto really have the wow factor? 

PAGE 21 Puerto point of  view

Puerto de la Cruz is thriving again. This is the official message currently being bandied about. Is it a bold claim or a fact? I have been asked to comment and to provide evidence, if I can, to support this claim.

The town is certainly busier than a few years ago, there are far more people about, that much is obvious, however, busy and thriving aren’t necessarily the same thing. Visitor numbers are up year on year for the last five years, a quote I read recently. Not quite true, if you use the government’s official figures, there was a drop somewhere in the middle, but what’s a few thousand in the grand scheme of things. Besides which, we are talking about statistics and we all know how they can be manipulated to say what you want.

Where do the visitor numbers come from? Is it simply a count of heads on hotel pillows? If so, are they completely ignoring the growing number of tourists who choose to book directly with private apartment owners, be they staying a week, two weeks, a month or the whole winter? If indeed these visitors are included then how are they quantified, do they just add a industry recognised percentage or rely on a good old fashioned guesstimate , it would be interesting to know.

So, I think it is safe to say we have established Puerto is busier now than in recent years, but this does not mean a return to the heady days of the late 80’s early 90’s, I think it would be wrong to make a comparison, those days are surely gone, never to return. Is busy the same as thriving or does thriving lend itself more to successful and prosperous?

Let us look at another statistic they like to shout about. They use income per hotel room as a measure of success, for the hotel, yes I would agree, but for the town, I wouldn’t necessarily. The latest figure being touted is just over €58, an increase on the previous figure, so a move in the right direction, but how does this figure compare, if Puerto has re-invented itself, with other popular Spanish destinations? Not very favourably as it happens, but I won’t bore you with league table positions as really there are no winners or losers.

Has high occupancy been achieved at a cost? 2017 saw a huge increase in Spanish pensioners visiting from the mainland, here on government subsidised holidays. Whereas once these holidays were taken predominately during April and May, when hotels were quiet, they now appear to be here all year round. Previously closed hotels have reopened to accommodate the upsurge in visitors numbers, but has Puerto de la Cruz become the budget destination for British visitors to fill the void left by the Tunisia ban, a market which incidentally reopens this year. Does how much someone spends on their hotel have a direct correlation to how much disposable income they have to spend elsewhere in the town? I think it most probably does.

Does Puerto give the impression of being prosperous; does it have the look of a thriving tourist destination? Do the glossy pictures from the official tourism sites stand up to scrutiny? Do tourists really take in their surroundings? For me the answers are simple. They are a resounding no, but then I am not a tourist, I am a resident, and as such I shouldn’t have an opinion, at least, not one that is contrary to the current town hall ethos that everything in the town is rosy.

We have been fortunate with the weather and yes everything looks better when the sun is shining, yet every now and then you should take the sunglasses off and some should probably remove their blinkers and take a good look at Puerto and judge it at face value. For me it is all about first impressions, they are the ones that leave a lasting memory. Is Puerto creating the right first impressions, does it have that wow factor?

Let us look at the town hall, I know I have mentioned it before, but for me it is a good indicator of the town’s well being. There are some beautiful buildings providing the seat of power in the surrounding towns, but unfortunately not in Puerto. Admittedly it is not the most attractive building in the first place, but what sort of impression are they trying to present with its rotten window frames, rusted security frames and peeling paintwork, even the lovely patio in the building to the rear is looking neglected.

Plaza del Charco, the central hub of the town, which up until a couple of years ago was a lovely place to sit. Not now, the street furniture has seen better days, the trees haven’t been pruned, the paving is old dirty and cracked, the kiosks need updating, the whole area has become dark and dingy and I won’t even mention the smell.

What about the beaches, surely the priority of any tourist resort? Martiánez remains littered with debris washed down during the not so recent rains and the Playa Jardin beaches having held the coveted blue flag for many years, lost it in 2017. Why? Who knows, the council won’t make public anything remotely negative so they didn’t see the need to mention it, nor for that matter have they come up with an action plan to regain it, or if they have they are keeping quiet about it. So what do you reckon it was, dirty beaches, tired facilities, poor management, or for me the most likely, poor water quality, given its close proximity to the Punta Brava sewage works. There were water quality problems island wide last year throughout the summer and Puerto had its share, but what was the cause, a plant like bacteria, or human waste discharge. The government verdict, hardly surprising, was the former, but there was scientific support for the latter. My own opinion, for what it’s worth, having watched the scum floating off Punta Brava many times, is if it was the former, a living organism, then it was feeding on the latter.

I could carry on with many more unfavourable first impressions, but let’s move on to perception and portrayal or to be more exact image projection. A thriving, successful, prosperous resort must be seen in the right light. Puerto has its fair share of official ‘information’ sites, both web sites and social media. Some are quite professional, other s not so. I am not a fan of stage managed, enhanced photos, with ‘actors’ playing real people, why not simply show it how it really is. Also I am not quite sure why there is a need to see so many photos of our councillors standing in line or attending meetings, after all we all know who they and what departments they run. Sometimes less is more on social media, for example, is there really a need to post, almost every weekend, 20+ photos of the same council operative cleaning streets with a pressure washer, surely he is only doing his job, or is this something unusual.

Part of the right image is to have the right slogan , Puerto has had a few over the years and one of the most recent, which I am sure they are still using is Puerto de la Cruz parte de ti, Puerto de la Cruz part of you, the meaning of which I understood to be twofold. Namely, visitors should be made to feel a part of Puerto and the town’s citizens or residents should become its greatest ambassadors. However, now I am wondering if that still applies given that spokespersons for the town hall in recent radio and press interviews have labelled a growing number of citizens as negative and pessimistic, maybe not the right people to promote the town then, at least not at this moment in time. I think this change of opinion stems from the growing number of comments, perceived as negative, on the council’s social media sites and on a very popular independent site where citizens of Puerto can post their dissatisfaction with the current administration, complete with photos. Remember Puerto de la Cruz is far more than San Telmo.

So Puerto de la Cruz is certainly busy and long may it continue, but whether it is thriving, well that all depends on your interpretation of the word. Me, I just give my own personal opinion, my own two pennies worth, which is probably considered to be negative and pessimistic, although personally I prefer to call it critical and constructive. Here ends my first whinge of 2018.