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