John Bell ““Travel Journalist and TV Director/Producer, British Guild of Travel Writers.

Amongst the prestigious travel media professionals who make up the British Guild of Travel Writers, John Bell is a travel journalist, TV Director/Producer (John is the former Producer of Radio 4’s ‘Breakaway’ and Channel 4’s ‘travelogue’) and tourism training professional.
I caught up with John last week at the Guild’s AGM Gala Dinner hosted by the Gran Hotel Bahía Del Duque and he had some pearls of wisdom to share with Tenerife’s tourism professionals.

Firstly, I asked John what his impressions of Tenerife had been so far and laughing, he replied; “It’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be!”
Which I considered was exactly the sort of response the Cabildo (Island Government) were hoping to elicit when they invited the British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW) to host their Annual General Meeting on Tenerife.

Sparing no effort or expense, the Cabildo wanted to show the Guild that there’s a very different Tenerife from the one that has been poorly portrayed in the British press so many times. Judging by John’s conversation, the exercise is already yielding results and most of the BGTW delegates I spoke to were seeing a very different side to Tenerife, one that hopefully they’ll promote in their various travel media.

As well as working in travel journalism and TV, John is a media trainer in travel and tourism and he took the time to offer some invaluable advice to those of us who are involved in some form or another in Tenerife’s tourism sector.

John’s message for Tenerife is not to lose sight of its traditional market but rather to raise the standards of what’s being offered and to provide excellent value for money.
John: “That’s the key – don’t confuse low cost with poor value. Many of the people who fly on Ryanair and Easyjet are choosing to stay in 4 and 5 star accommodation. They don’t necessarily expect low prices but they do insist on good value for money.
The traditional market is changing but it’s still your staple market, don’t neglect it.”

John has recently returned from a conference in Madrid where he says he emerged with one strong message; offer better value for money to your traditional market whilst keeping an eye on emerging markets.

John: “Tenerife must be able to respond quickly to the demands of a travel public that now has the power to book their holidays 24/7 over the Internet. People may read an article about a place on Thursday and decide to go the following day for a weekend. They can book their flight immediately and the hotels need to be just as responsive. So too should the car hire companies. If the hotel and the car hire company don’t have 24/7 online booking facilities they’re going to miss out on a whole travel market.”

Tenerife hotels should offer the whole package, says John.

John: “Hotels should make available airport transfer, car hire, excursions and even travel guides. Everything should be readily bookable in one package online to make arranging a short break quick, easy and efficient for visitors.”

From where I’m standing, much of Tenerife’s professional tourism sector still has a long way to go in terms of offering a seamless package to visitors. After investing so much time and effort into hosting the BGTW, let’s hope the Cabildo can now disseminate what it has learned from these travel professionals and create a destination that will suit the Internet-savvy British market. It’s our traditional market and it’s constantly evolving”¦Tenerife needs to evolve with it.

British Guild of Travel Writers in Tenerife 2010 - View this group's most interesting photos on Flickriver


Sarah Monaghan ““ Editor, Travel Writer and Photographer

Sarah Monaghan 2

Tenerife has been polishing her best profile this week to entertain, educate and enthral the British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW) who’ve been enjoying their Annual General Meeting on the island.
On Thursday night Tenerife Magazine was lucky enough to be invited to the Guild’s Gala Dinner at the ultra-chic Bahía Del Duque Hotel in Costa Adeje.
So, wearing my poshest outfit, fresh lipstick and stilettos I arrived at the El Duque and walked what felt like a half marathon through its grounds wishing I’d opted for hiking boots instead.

As luck would have it, I passed through a convention of Spanish surgeons en route to the Beach Club and a glass of something delicious was gracefully thrust into my hands to keep me going until I finally reached the venue and caught up with Sarah Monaghan, editor/travel writer/photographer and press and PR co-ordinator for the BGTW.

I asked Sarah what had impressed her so far about Tenerife.
Sarah: “Well I was completely wowed by Teide National Park; the light, the landscape and the colours were extraordinary and the way that you could see the lava from eruptions so clearly.
I’m looking forward to walking in the rainforest in the Anaga Mountains tomorrow and to discovering more about the wines on Tenerife; the history of wine growing, which grapes are used and how they cultivate the vines in this climate.”

A strong supporter of ecotourism, Sarah wasn’t too keen on the amount of development taking place on the Tenerife south coast but found the general environment to be surprisingly good.
Sarah: “I think the standards of accommodation here are excellent and I’m extremely impressed with the cleanliness of the whole area and the quality of lifestyle that visitors can enjoy.”

The Cabildo (Island Government) have arranged a whole series of trips for the BGTW to show them a different side to Tenerife and one which the Cabildo hope will result in some features that encourage more people to get out and about on the island and discover some of the “˜real’ Tenerife.
Sarah: “We’ll be taking a look at Canarian cookery, we’re going to the Anagas and we’ve been to banana plantations and a small rural hotel. These are things that many visitors to the island wouldn’t normally do and it’s shown us a very different face to Tenerife.”

With a distinguished and varied publishing and editorial career already under her belt, I was keen to know how Sarah felt that the travel writing industry was changing in the light of the explosion of Internet-based travel information.
Sarah: “There have been meteoric changes in the freelance travel writing sector as a result of the growth of the Internet and we are all blogging and tweeting now. But it’s important to realise that very little of the information which we see on the Web is impartial. I believe there is still a place for properly researched, impartial travel writing, particularly when if focuses on a specialist area. The availability of so much information is forcing those within the industry to specialize more which is not a bad thing.”

After a night of fine food, excellent wine, Carnaval-themed entertainment and a spectacular laser show, the journey back to the exit of the Bahia Del Duque Hotel proved challenging. And I wasn’t the only one failing to rise to the challenge. By the time we finally found the exit we were quite a gathering, including John Carter. It seems travel writers can find their way around the World but give us a complicated hotel layout and we might as well be in an episode of “˜Lost’.

If the BGTW finds that’s it’s missing a few members when it gets back to Blighty, can I suggest that they start the search at the Bahia Del Duque?

Gran Hotel Bahia Del Duque


Wish You Were Here? You soon will do

Remember the double issue festive editions of the Radio and TV Times? That was when the holiday adverts would first appear, I used to flick through the numbered ads and then tick the four boxes on the order form and wait for four hefty brochures to plop through the letter box. Holiday marketing has come a long way since then, but you still can’t beat word of mouth and personal recommendation, that’s why the Tenerife Cabildo (government) pulled out all the stops to welcome 107 media scribes from the British Guild of Travel Writers.

John Carter (above) has changed with the times, I recognised him as a comforting face from my TV youth, fronting the BBC Holiday programme and later ITV’s Wish You Were Here. Grabbing a chat before the gala dinner at Bahia del Duque, I couldn’t resist asking “where’s Judith?” a chuckle and a reassurance that Miss Chalmers is retired but still sprightly, and John took me back to his early print days.

“I started covering travel for regional papers in Sheffield and Worcester before landing the role of Travel Editor for the Thomson Group of newspapers. After that I gradually started doing some TV work and it just grew.” During years of travelling John’s calls to Tenerife have had 20 year gaps between them so he has a good impression of how things have changed.

“In the 1960’s there was a weekly cruise ship, Union Castle to South Africa from Southampton, I was invited with my wife Sheila to join a voyage and we stopped off in Tenerife, staying in Puerto de la Cruz, that was the main tourism centre then. I came back for Wish You Were Here in the 80’s and this is my first trip since then. I was told originally that the government wanted to develop Tenerife for old holiday makers, along the lines of Florida, but that soon changes once the south took off. Now here I am back in print freelancing for The Mail On Sunday, and back in Tenerife. We (BGTW) have been offered a selection of tours around the island the last few days and I must say I’m impressed by what I have seen.”

Television still has a big part to play in promoting Tenerife, Petra Shepherd (above) head of research for the Travel Channel was pleasantly surprised by what she had seen. “I was here a couple of years ago for the ABTA conference at the Magma Centre, but I am getting to see much more this time, we did Teide, La Laguna, whale watching and Puerto de la Cruz, all impressive in their own ways”. A self confessed hiker, Petra was looking forward to the next days trip “we are going to the Anaga mountains beyond Santa Cruz, there’s a big market now for back packing holidays. Tenerife will always be a popular destination despite the emergence of places like Egypt and Turkey, people like the familiar, and they know they can rely on all year sun in Tenerife”.


New technology is good, just ask the thrilled delegates that lapped up a laser light show at the end of the on stage entertainment, following a lavish meal. Alastair McKenzie had more of a working holiday than most, as a committee member of the BGTW and webmaster, but he got his first visit surprises within hours of flying in. “I have seen other volcanic areas but was surprised to see how much of the land had been used in Tenerife, normally you would expect to see lots more undeveloped areas. I just had time to dump my stuff at the hotel before we were whisked off to a banana plantation in Fañabe, that was wonderful, something unexpected and different. We saw the packaging process for the crops and had a very pleasing meal that made very versatile use of bananas in a great rural setting.”

Everyone I asked about technology, pointed me in the direction of Alastair, definitely the man with his finger on the button or mouse. “Our members are making more and more use of social media, even before the trip the blog sites and Twitter were buzzing, they will be red hot for the next few weeks.”

It’s that buzz that Tenerife tourism hopes to use to entice more visitors to our shores in a subdued market. So keep your eyes peeled like a Tenerife banana, the newspapers, internet sites, TV, and podcasts should be alive with glowing praise for our favourite island.

British Guild of Travel Writers in Tenerife 2010 - View this group's most interesting photos on Flickriver