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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.

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Having just spent an idyllic long weekend on La Gomera, it strikes me that most visitors to Tenerife never see anything more of our neighbouring island  than the stunning canvas it lends to the nightly sunset, or glimpses of its shoreline from dolphin watching trips along the Los Gigantes and Los Cristianos coasts. For those who make the effort to take the ferry across the water, a forty minute sailing lands you on an island which is a far cry from the bustle of their Los Cristianos departure point.

La Gomera was once described by a friend who has lived on the island for some 14 years as being shaped like a circular tablecloth that someone has pinched in the centre and raised off the table. Steep barrancos (ravines) create deep folds in the landscape that run from the coast to the central rainforest of Garajonay National Park, making travel a time consuming and sinuous business, and farming a back-breaking toil.

The difficulty of easily traversing such a landscape, combined with rocky coastlines, strong currents and sheer cliffs which prevent the coastline from getting sucked into the Tenerife addiction of beach building, has meant that La Gomera remains mercifully devoid of large resort development. The down side to that equation is that many of La Gomera’s younger generation have abandoned their agricultural inheritance to make the weekly commute to Tenerife for an easier living and bright lights, leaving La Gomera low on economic development opportunities. But the island has seen an influx of (mainly German) immigrants who have invested in renovating traditional properties, opening restaurants and select rural guest houses and cultivating fincas. The end result is an island of rare beauty, unspoilt by tourism.

I’m not a fan of coach tours with their prescriptive itineraries and refreshment stops which often bypass local pockets, but if you want to tour La Gomera in a day, on this occasion it’s probably your best bet. Confident drivers can hire a car at the ferry terminal and explore independently but for anyone who doesn’t have experience of driving abroad and on mountainous roads, letting a coach take the stress has a lot to be said for it.

Those who prefer a more leisurely day can wander around the capital of San Sebastián where the ferry docks and from whence Christopher Columbus set sail on his globe-changing voyage of 6th September 1492. Buildings of note are the iconic Torre del Conde (above), the little church of La Asunción and Columbus’ House where the eponymous hero stayed prior to his epic voyage and which is now a museum. There are shady pavement cafés and restaurants serving very reasonably priced menus del día of typical Canarian cuisine and lots of places to stroll and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.

Visitors in the north of Tenerife should consider taking a day return flight on BinterCanarias or IslasAirways who fly into the airport a short taxi ride from the resort of Playa Santiago. Best known as the location of the La Tecina Hotel, Playa Santiago has seen a small but steady growth over the past five years and now offers a picturesque marina; a small, black sand beach; nice restaurants with promenade views and a good selection of shops. It’s a laid back, one horse sort of resort where the default setting is sunny and life moves at a ripple pace – the perfect spot in which to enjoy a very different Canary Island for a day.

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