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The people who make a difference in the Canary Islands
   The people who make a difference in the Canary Islands

Miguel 聲gel making waves
Miguel 聲gel Gonz嫮ez Su嫫ez is a very busy man.

I am beginning to believe that politicians should have only a set length of time in office
I am beginning to believe that politicians should have only a set length of time in office

25.10.2003 -

He is a professional in the tourist industry, President of the Santa Cruz CIT (Centre for Tourist Initiatives), member of The Tenerife Tourist Board, the Regional tourist Board, member of the Carnival Committee and fond father of three, but he took time out from a very busy schedule to talk exclusively to Island Connections.

The CIT groups are non profit making organizations that were created around forty years ago, to promote the tourism within specific areas.  This at first caused difficulties with individual groups competing for the same visitors, but according to Miguel 聲gel, that is no longer the case. We are interested in an improvement of the quality of tourism in all the Canaries, not just Tenerife, not just the South, Puerto or Santa Cruz.  Our job is to inform and to make sure that information gets to the people most concerned, our tourists.

To that end, the CIT publish various hefty information volumes aimed at the tourist industry and attend travel fairs such as the recent World Travel Market in London.  They also publish tourist guides, finance and organise information points and help in the formation of personnel.

Making the most of the new technology they have recently brought out a CD Rom and they run their own radio station, which is now available on the internet (  The radio programme is a selection of middle of the road and classical/jazz music (no pop) with news and tourist information in three languages.  It is available in Santa Cruz on 101.5 FM and in La Laguna on 95.2 FM.  Some hotels such as the Mencey have included it on their in-house audio/visual links.  Trials are going ahead in Puerto on 106.6 FM and a new transmitter is planned for the South.  The ambitious idea is to be able to give each tourist a free miniature radio, where they will be able to get direct information 24 hours a day.  Going live on the internet means that they will have access to that information even before they get here!

Funding such operations is not easy, especially since they have received no increase in allocation from the Cabildo for over twelve years, despite a huge increase in the levels of tourism.  However he is hopeful that this will change with Tenerifes new Planning and Tourism chief, Jos Manuel Bermdez.  Changes are always good.  I am beginning to believe that politicians should have only a set length of time in office.

Speaking about the recent Forum on tourism that we both attended he said he had been very depressed by the performance of the Regional Tourism Minister, Juan Jos Herrera. When you go to something like that you should be prepared and especially when you are dealing with people so competent in the tourist arena like the representatives from the Balearics.  He gave me the impression that he knew absolutely nothing and that worries me.  Are we once again going to have people in public office, who aren't specialists in their specific areas?  I hope he's got a good team.  Tourism is our industry, we don't have any other.  We don't have a fishing fleet, or major levels of agriculture or anything else.  We live off tourism.

We are going through a difficult period, a period of economic crises at international levels.  Germany has just gone through a grave crises and it looks as if England is going to go through something similar.  They are our two biggest markets.  In any case we are experiencing a kind of tourism at the moment of a very low quality.  Not just from these two countries, but from everywhere.  We have to improve the level of the visitors we receive.  There are new markets opening up everywhere.  I was particularly surprised to see at the World Tourist Market, how many Arab destinations are now on offer.  In many of these new countries the exchange rate changes dramatically from one day to the next. We can offer economic security, street safety and stability in rates of exchange.  According to the surveys that we carry out, the levels of tourist satisfaction in Tenerife is very good. But, the Canaries has to look to what it is doing and bring itself up to date.


The All inclusive Package

The all in package was invented in the Caribbean because the hotels were isolated and there was nothing else, but that isn't the case here but, I don't know how we can go about legally prohibiting it.  Tour operators are companies, they are looking for higher and higher returns.  We have a loyal tourism in winter.  We have a privileged climate that can't be found anywhere else in Europe, or in Morocco.  The nice thing about Tenerife is that you can be staying in a hotel but you can move all over the island.  You can get to know the people, the local food, the traditions and folklore of each village.

The minute you shut a tourist inside his hotel, you are depriving him of the most important heritage that we have to offer - the island itself.  It's absurd, if I'm in hotel and there's a typical Canarian restaurant across the road, maybe I'll feel like eating there, or there's a discoth鋂ue down the road, perhaps I'll want to go there.  The complementary services here are not expensive.  The last thing I personally would want to do as a tourist is stay inside the four walls of a hotel.  We have a holiday destination that is cheap and good quality, so try and shut a holidaymaker up in a hotel is absurd.  If all a tourist sees is the inside of the hotel, they may come back once but we won't get the regular rate of return visitors that we have at the moment.  People will get bored.  The hoteliers are looking for short term solutions, and trying to bring new hotels into profit too quickly.

Times have changed.  I believe we are selling Tenerife too cheaply - we aren't putting the correct value on what we have.  The hotel owners are desperate because this has been a business where they have earned a great deal of money in the past, over so many years.  So much money, it's been like a bank, with cash coming in from all directions and now there is a surplus of beds on offer, which is their own fault.  There are studies, which confirm that the total load that the island can carry with irreparable damage is seven million visitors a year, we now have almost double.  That's why I think the ban on new hotel building is a good thing, but then there are always ways around it.  Look at the number of golf courses being built, and each has to have its own hotel - that's allowed.  If you saw the number of golf courses that are planned for the island you'd be shocked.

Miguel 聲gel is delighted about the increased number of cruises to the island and expects to be aboard the Queen Mary 2 on January 16th to unveil a plaque commemorating her maiden voyage.  The increase of cruises to the island has been spectacular.  I like cruising, my last two summer holidays with the family have been cruises.  Last year we went to the Mediterranean.  I already knew many of the cities through work, but I didn't know the ports.  Some ports you have to go through a lot of containers and ugliness.  Santa Cruz has nothing to be ashamed of in comparison, still less when the new maritime station is open.  It is important to bring the port into the city, integrate it.  People visiting, living and working in Santa Cruz do not enjoy the benefits of being on the Atlantic coast.  At the moment there exist two separate worlds.  We want to unite them and bring the port into the city, integrate it.  It should be a part of the whole, like Barcelona.


The ring road

I see on the news, TITSA have 35 new buses.  That's great, but we don't just need more new buses, we need more information on using the ones we have.  I was in Eastern Europe and in each bus stop there is a digital display telling you when the next bus will be along.  Don't tell me that with the technology that we have today we can't do something similar.  My son went to a friends house, less than 14 kilometres away and it took him three hours there and back, what's the solution - more roads?  When we can go all around the island in half an hour, then what will we do?

They're ruining half the island.  The areas where they want to build the roads are beautiful, and what for, four lanes to arrive in Santiago el Teide that bit faster?   It appears to me so absurd.  This is not what charms the tourists.  Where's the charm in that?  There are four and six lane motorways in all the big cities in the world, in England, in Germany, in Spain, in Italy and in Belgium.  I don't want to go on a six lane motorway.  As a tourist, I want to get to know the island.  What they are saying is absurd. 'No - it's for those that live in the North and go to the South to work.'   How many people live in the whole of the Lowlands?  Maybe 30,000?  Do they all go to the South to work?  I don't believe it, maybe 2,000.  Promote cheaper forms of public transport, cheaper financing for them to buy housing in the areas where they work, subsidies for travel.

The solution is not in building more and more roads.  We are committing atrocities.  Every year there are more and more cars on the road. The sale of cars is the same, if not more, each year.  People will buy a car before they buy a house.  They'd rather have a Mercedes or a BMW if they can, and sleep under a bridge - they need to be made more aware of the consequences of their actions - that's what politicians are for.  If we joined up all the cars on the island we could put a ring around the island seven times.  I don't understand all this insistence on a ring road.  Mallorca has the same number of tourists as us over fewer months and only has one small stretch of motorway serving an industrial estate.  There are many roads where there is only room for one car and places to pass by.  They have much more experience with tourism than us, but they're not planning motorways.

The CIT are collaborating with the Council on plans for promoting the capital for City Break type holidays. They are hoping that the new auditorium, the new contemporary art museum and other projects will bring people into Santa Cruz as a tourist destination and of course the increase in direct flights will help that.  Culture and shopping combined.  Miguel 聲gel lamented We have some great museums; I am disappointed that they are so underused.  There is obviously a fault somewhere, maybe we should be looking at putting the management of them out to tender.  We have a lot to do and a lot to change.  If I want to go to a theatre in Barcelona, Madrid or even London and Paris, I can go to an automatic cash machine and pay for my seat here in Tenerife, I can even choose my seat, but I can't pay for a ticket to the Gimera theatre with a credit card, or make a reservation over the phone.  We're working on it, but it will take time.

With such a busy life, how does he find time for his family?  I make sure I have time.  The family is important.  It's important that I spend time with them.  It hasn't always been possible in the past, but these days I make sure I have time for them.

Miguel  聲gel has been at the head of the Santa Cruz CIT for over 12 years, but his dedication and enthusiasm remain sharp.  There are great plans for Santa Cruz.  I am sure he will be at the forefront helping them to fulfilment in every way he possibly can.


By Sheila Collis

Gallery: Miguel 聲gel making waves
I am beginning to believe that politicians should have only a set length of time in office 
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