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Do Puerto hotel owners need more financial help for regenerations? 

PAGE 23 A million euros for  Puerto but is it enough

All the talk of how Puerto de la Cruz has become so busy once again, yet two hotels in the town have recently closed with a loss of over 300 rooms and their closure hardly raised a murmur among official circles.

The Dania Park built in the early 1970s had always been a popular hotel, yet the company who had managed the building for the last five years failed in their efforts to negotiate a renewal to their contract with the property’s owner and rumours were there were differences over the level of repairs the building needed. So despite their willingness to continue the company was forced to close the doors at the end of October with a loss of 53 jobs.

The Xibana Park, a hotel of about the same age, but one with a more chequered past, as it has closed before, was forced to close its doors in November, under different circumstances, yet with a lot of similarities. The hotel’s management company was approaching the end of a five year contract and in the process of renegotiating a new contract; again there was a level of repairs needed to the building. However, in this case closure was forced upon them by the town hall after structural surveys of the building proved it to be unsafe. A smaller hotel, but its closure still left a further 25 employees looking for alternative employment in an industry where it will not be easy.

The thing that puzzles me is for years I have been reading of the regeneration plan for Puerto de la Cruz, of which modernisation of the hotel stock was to play a big part. And yes a number of hotels have undergone transfor-mations in recent years; so much so, I have always assumed there has been some form of government funding available to them. Of course, I might be wrong; however, I fail to see how you could expect hotel owners to drive the regeneration of the town without providing some form support. If so, how are two seemingly viable businesses, albeit operating in tired buildings, both obviously in need of regeneration, allowed to fall through the net without ringing alarm bells beforehand. Or perhaps the owner or owners of two buildings needed them empty before regeneration could begin.

Visitor numbers

Still they say that every cloud has a silver lining and try as much as they have this year the town hall has had little to crow about where visitor numbers are concerned. At least now with more than 300 fewer rooms it will improve their occupancy figures, and they do love to quote favourable statistics. However, sadly, I think they will be keeping quiet about the unemployment figures for a while. Enough said, moving on.

Small mercies?

The Minister of Tourism from Madrid has allocated a paltry €1 million from her budget towards projects in Puerto de la Cruz. I suppose we should all be grateful for small mercies and doff our hats to show our due respect, and at least, it is better than we ever get from Costa’s, from them it’s only promises. Anyway what are we going to spend the money on, after all €1 million doesn’t go far, especially when talking about capital projects?

New loos, showers and changing rooms for the three beach areas that make up Playa Jardin, a project that has been talked about for so long I was sure that they already had the necessary ‘readies’ to pay for it. So now it seems they do all €345,000 of it and the work is to be completed in two months. Don’t build your hopes up too soon I’m sure they mean within two months of it starting not that it will be completed within the next two months.

€281,179 (it seems such an exact amount I am sure it was deliberate) is also going to be spent on the Playa Jardin complex, on what are described as ‘very visible works’, so noticeable improvements I assume, but then the area has been neglected for so long any work would be visible. The specifics are a bit vague, some improved access and a general ‘tarting up’, or what most people would term routine maintenance, some-thing there never seems to be a contingence for in Puerto de la Cruz budgets. It is a shame there is no money for the bandstand kiosk, if they don’t intend to use it the very least they could do is make it safe and give it a lick of paint.

The third project is the restoration of calle de Agatha Christie, a small walkway in La Paz which meets the ill fated cliff top coastal path that has been undergoing re-novation on and off for years. A new project that I think is a bit controversial given that the pathway was in good repair before being used as an access route by both construction companies who have worked on the coastal path. Surely returning calle de Agatha Christie to its previous condition was a prerequisite of the original contract, or if not it should have been. But now they are going to shell out again, €373,820 to “redefine the walk to highlight its scenic and historical qualities”. What a load of waffle! In other words it is more likely going to get the standard cheap grey concrete slab makeover that Puerto de la Cruz has become well known for.

So that’s it the money is spent, or is it? I am sure there are one or two of you who have done the maths and realised the sum total for the three projects is €999,999 leaving just €1 still to spend. Just enough to buy someone in the town hall a coffee, enough that is as long as they don’t visit the world renowned coffee shop opposite.

Remember the road through the Martiánez being closed for so long as they carried out improvements. Well, it has been closed again since then, I think, on three different occasions, in fact every time we have had heavy rain and a waterfall has come cascading down upon it from La Paz up above, bringing all kinds of assorted debris with it. Not the town hall’s fault this time, no, this is down to Cabildo who have most probably tried to shift the blame onto the ‘water authority’, or whoever else it is responsible for drainage. I suppose someone is, but given what happens whenever it rains I sometimes wonder. Not that the waterfall is a new phenomenon, it has happened in the past, every time we’ve had a prolonged exceptionally heavy deluge. However, what I and everyone else who lives in Puerto thought was that solving this problem was part and parcel of the road refurbishment project, evi-dently not.

Finally, this has to end somewhere and where better than with a prime example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. A couple of weeks ago some workmen arrived unannounc-ed at the Muelle in Puerto de la Cruz and began to knock a wall down to make way for a ramp. Of course, this caused a lot of consternation amongst the locals, claiming that the wall was over 200 years old and part of the town’s heritage. The ‘save the wall brigade’ was duly resurrected, we haven’t heard from them since the San Telmo wall was knocked down. Anyway the councillor for urbanisation arrived allegedly claiming the works were illegal and work was stopped.

The next day the town hall issued a statement on social media saying the works came under the jurisdiction of the Canarian ports authority who were building a ramp to provide better access for people with mobility problems, an initiative they were rolling out throughout all the ports. So someone at the town hall obviously knew all about it beforehand.

There have been conspiracy theories as to the true use of the ramp, which I won’t go into for fear of being libellous, but what I will say is whatever its use what is the sense of building it right next to ramp which that has been in existence for years, over two hundred years, if the age of the wall claims stack up. Anyway after a Mexican standoff lasting about a week, giving everyone a chance to get their stories right, work has resumed. Don’t you just love Puerto de la Cruz.