What’s the collective term for travel agents? A flight, a welcome… or maybe a brochure? Whichever it is, Thomas Cook brought together 2,600 of their UK agents at their annual convention at the Magma Arts and Congress Centre in Costa Adeje. If the banners on the granite face of the centre didn’t give the game away, the profusion of sky blue shirts was a dead giveaway. Like a huge informal welcome meeting, agents grabbed a moment to recline in the afternoon sun on the concourse, during a rare day of rain in Tenerife.

Inside, Manny Fontenla, Chief Executive Officer of the tour operator and holiday specialist was sharing his vast experience of the travel industry with the media, and painting a picture of sunshine to come after cloudy times for the trade in general and Tenerife in particular. The proposed British Airways strike was grabbing headlines as the week-long convention unfolded, another sign of turbulence in the holiday market, but Manny offered hope for Tenerife.

“People want to come to Tenerife, it needs a lot of barriers in the way to put them off. Times are hard back home but there are signs that our trade is on the way back up, maybe not immediately, but certainly for next summer.”

The Brits will be expected to lead a return to the holiday good times. Last year 1.2 million visited Tenerife, 78.8% of them repeat visitors. Thomas Cook will be flying in many of the sun seekers via companies like Airtours, Sunset and Direct. Manny has a unique perspective on the British love affair with Spain. When he was just 11 his Spanish parents moved to Fulham , where he learned English the hard way in the company of not always patient fellow pupils. Now Manny is based in the UK and fully integrated, even swearing allegiance to Chelsea FC. Leaving school with just two O levels he started off in the printing department of Thomas Cook, leaving to found and nurture Sunworld as a leading holiday firm before returning to Thomas Cook in 1996.

An open neck shirt and a relaxed manner helped to deliver Manny’s message to the Tenerife media, as he spoke of important times ahead: “January is a key month, the industry sells around 30% of all holidays then, and that will give us a good idea of what to expect”. So what are the overall trends in the travel market? ” We have been surprised to see that people aren’t really trading down, from 5-star to 4-star and so on, but it’s fair to say that holidaymakers are not spending as much once they arrive at their destination. As for Tenerife, the south is still the most popular but our staff have a good in depth knowledge of the different attractions of the north and the more rural areas.”

Downstairs in the labyrinth of halls and rooms, the convention was nearing it’s finish and there was an end of term jollity as agents visited the many trade stands and spilled out into the sun. Tables were being laid in the large dining areas, and the steady thud of disco music was acting like a rallying call to the main hall where a sea of light blue was already dancing. It was definitely party time, but beneath all that was a strong realisation that a tourism recovery is going to be hard work to make sure that potential tourists don’t sit out the next season’s holiday dance.