Early in May 2011 I was lucky enough to be a part of what must surely be one of the best blog trips ever, the Costa Brava blog trip.
For those who are not familiar with the term, a blog trip is like a press trip but for travel bloggers. A tourism destination invites a group of the most influential travel bloggers to visit their region, discover the beauty of their landscape, sample their hospitality, their gastronomy and their activities. For their part, the bloggers promote the destination on their blogs before, during and after the trip and use social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to broadcast their experiences in real time.
During the seven day trip to Costa Brava, 16 international bloggers were wowed and wooed with experiences that ranged from lunch prepared by fishermen in a hut with no running water to a twenty course lunch at the second best restaurant in the world. They hiked to volcanoes in the rural interior and jumped from aircraft over the stunning coastline and they stayed in idyllic coves, seaside resorts and in Girona; in five star, family run and city centre hotels.
Most importantly of all, the bloggers met fascinating people from across the region who brought Costa Brava alive for them. They met famous chefs and painters, fishermen, sailors and vineyard owners. Everywhere they went they were welcomed with open arms, photographed, filmed and interviewed for TV and press and for their entire trip they were given access to WiFi to ensure that they could effectively do the job they had been brought to Costa Brava to do.
Costa Brava didn’t need a blog trip to raise awareness of a region of Spain that hitherto lay hidden from the tourist trail. Quite the contrary. Resorts like Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar and Roses have long been on the holiday destination map. But Costa Brava wants to promote itself as much more than just a seaside resort and has used the blog trip to position itself as a destination for activities, gastronomy, diversity, culture and scenic beauty.
Now, cut to Tenerife…
A popular holiday destination that desperately wants to reposition itself on the travel radar. A destination known only for the sun, sea and sand of its south and west coast resorts while the epic scenery of its mountains, its stunning volcanic interior and its cultural heritage go largely unseen.
The opportunities for activity holidays on Tenerife are endless, with everything from walking to paragliding to highlight. We may not have the world’s best chefs or restaurants but there is first class gastronomy to be enjoyed on the island and there’s a heritage of fine wine production that dates back to Shakepeare. There are five star hotels and rural idylls; festivals and fireworks; mountains, valleys and palm grove coastlines all waiting to be discovered and showcased to the world.
So why do I think a blog trip is unlikely ever to happen on Tenerife? Because any such publicity opportunity would be taken over by the politicians rather than focussing on local people interacting with the bloggers. Because in order to pull this off successfully you would have to have local and island-wide government working in seamless unity, something I have yet to witness on Tenerife. Because in Costa Brava local businesses, hoteliers, restaurateurs and tour operators opened their eyes to the power of social media; on Tenerife most of those people are oblivious to its existence and blind to its power. Because you can’t achieve millions of tweets and retweets and broadcast in real time to the world on an island where high speed WiFi is still a luxury and not a given. Because you can never move forward when you’re stuck in the past.
Wake up Tenerife, the world is passing you by.