Friday, 15.02.2019
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The people who make a difference in the Canary Islands
   The people who make a difference in the Canary Islands

By Sheila Collis
Lucas cruises to success
We caught John skipping off to the post - or trying to duck the interview?

12.12.2003 - A gallant and erudite man, he received us in his simple office, filled with vintage photos and prints of the ports of Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz. He has an almost encyclopaedic memory for the history of the island, especially where it relates to ships, shippers and shipping. Contrary to popular rumour, he is not the son of an ambassador. My father was in the shipping industry, he was a shipping agent, in those days you were either in the cruise industry or shipping industry, there was no tourism as such. He came out in the 1930s. We moved over from Gran Canaria in 53, the family have been here in Tenerife 50 years. I was born in Las Palmas as was my mother. - Diplomacies loss has been the travel industries gain. John worked for Freddie Laker for almost 20 years, as one of his Managers on the Island. Then in 1983 when a lot of companies were collapsing, changing hands and being sold, he started Ten Travel. I thought the best thing to do was to set up my own company, set off from there and hope for the best. Its worked out because were 20 years old now. Although they do collaborate with other agencies in the cheapie tickets market, they are really a receiving agency. The major proportion of their business is divided between the co-ordination of congresses and conventions; the organisation of incentive trips and transport co-ordination, especially excursions and pre and post cruise care. The incentive and congress business is basically operated from the South, run by Paul Leleux. Hes very able, one of the top experts in the incentive and congress world in the Canaries. Hes been specialising in that market for over 30 years. The great majority of these groups tend to go to the five star hotels in the South and most are three or four day events. We dine around a lot we make tremendous use of places like Molino Blanco and Garibaldi for example. Ten Travel have a very solid cruise base, working closely with the Hamilton family shipping agents amongst others, dealing with the shore excursions, and post and pre-cruise organisation from Puerto. Our important list of clients is also our best guarantee and proof of our dedication, service and professionalism. John himself enjoys cruising tremendously and if pushed to name a favourite says I love Greece, all the history and mythology, the ruins. I think thats fantastic. More Cruises As of the end of October, the port of Santa Cruz had registered an increase of 2.56 per cent in cruise ships with a massive increase of 24.51 per cent in passengers. John expects a further increase next year. It seems to be the only real growth area in the whole travel trade worldwide. People are getting fed up with coming for a fortnight in one place and they want to go to different places every day, although they only get a little taste of that place. Its really growing tremendously. Santa Cruz is the number one port for cruises in the Canaries and on a par with Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca. Of all the cruise business that comes to Tenerife Ten Travel deal with around 40 per cent of the total. If you take away the smaller ships that do the round the islands trips, that are in and out on a weekly basis the number goes up to a staggering 60 per cent. Most of the visitors handled by Ten Travel stay in five star accommodation for a few days before or after their cruise. John believes the reason for the popularity of Tenerife as a cruising port is that it offers more shore excursion possibilities than any other island. Ten Travel offer ten excursions here including from the North, half or full day trips to Teide, with a return run to the Cathedral in Candelaria, Gardens of the Valley including the Orchid Gardens and the Botanical Gardens in Puerto and the Anaga mountains and from the South, the Pyramids of Gimar (the American favourite) and a Dolphin and Whale excursion from Puerto Colon. Gran Canaria excursions include amongst others the Canarian Garden, a coastal/resort trip and the Gardens of las Hesprides in the Palace of the Marquesa in Arucas. There are so many ships being built, the Caribbean is getting saturated. Since the cruising industry started its rebirth, about ten or twelve years ago, the Canaries has really taken off. The bigger cruise companies are continuously looking for new places to come and the Canaries, the Atlantic Islands are actually on the map now, as an official destination. One per cent of the whole worlds cruising is now Canaries/Madeira. I think its going to become more and more important, winter cruising in the Canary Islands. The port authorities of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Madeira work together very closely. Sea Trade Miami in March is the number one cruise fair in the world and we have our own stand. Were not part of the Spanish stand and Madeiras not part of the Portuguese stand. We have our own stand which is called Cruises in the Atlantic Islands. What were really pushing for in the sea trade, is to try to get some of the bigger operators to step up their base in Lisbon. The Canaries is one of the top three destinations in the world, but there are no direct flights from the United States of America, which is not that much further that Stockholm or Helsinki. The Americans dont like having to change in foreign airports in case they have their luggage lost, they like going straight there. Of course the best thing for us would be to have them fly direct to here, but Lisbon in itself is also interesting, you can go to Cadiz, and get the bus to Seville, Gibralter which is always interesting for Americans, taking in Malaga so they can take trips to Granada, go across the straits of Tangier - Ceuta and then they can come down here then across to here Madeira. A really nice big 10 or 11 day cruise, taking in Spain, Portugal, Gib, Ceuta, Morocco, Canaries and Madeira, and then back to Lisbon, off they go then another lot comes in. Up to now theyve done it on one-off cruises, but not a back to back system, which is what wed like to see - a turnaround in Lisbon and then off we go again. The Queen Mary 2 maiden voyage The Queen Mary 2 is coming in on the 16th of January. Thats going to be a very big day of course, for everybody - for the island, for the port authorities. Shes going to take up the space of three normal ships. Its the second port of call that the she will ever make in a foreign country, Madeiras the first, were the second and Las Palmas is the third, where shell be tying up on the newly renovated Santa Catalina Mall. The clients can walk into Las Palmas. The ship is scheduled to return in April and shell be returning to Las Palmas and visiting Lanzarote. The good thing for us in Tenerife, about the Queen Mary, is that it going to liberate the Queen Elizabeth from her North Atlantic run, so that she will be coming much more to Tenerife and the Canary Islands. Up to now weve got her twice a year. From now on it could be up to seven times a year. Not just in Tenerife, in all the Canaries. Chances missed Were very lucky, Puerto de la Cruz is a lovely, lovely, lovely place to live. Its still small and in many ways weve been saved by Playa. We have to say thank you to Los Cristianos and Playa Las Amricas for having taken tourism, or mass tourism to that side of the island, because if it had stayed on this side of the island, this would have been unliveable. Puerto de la Cruz is the smallest municipality in the Canary Islands, Its the size of Monaco. I think it this could have been a Monaco - Im talking about as a town, financially and as a resort. If the cards had been played properly since the late 60s, Puerto could be like Monte Carlo is today. It could have been a very upmarket, small, exquisite, exclusive resort. You do get the feeling from people that you meet, that upmarket people do prefer Puerto de la Cruz and all the five star hotels are being built in the South. I get the feeling that a lot of these people that have set up five star hotels in the south of the Island have made a tremendous mistake. I think that Las Americas should be the major resort where 80 per cent of our visitors go, but I think that Puerto de la Cruz they should try and push as a sort of upmarket resort, with a lot of hotels, not just the Botnico, but up to five, five star hotels, golf, some sort of a harbour. Puerto has got more history, more culture and the three historical colonial towns, Orotava, La Laguna and Garachico are within half an hours drive. They are talking about moving the Casino down to Andromeda to the underwater night club in the middle of the lake here. If they turn the Casino into a hotel I think its fantastic news. I think the Casino being here, the fact that its going to be downtown, rather than out of town, would be more acceptable to more people. At the same time it leaves the Taoro open for some large hotel company to come along. If we could have the Taoro as a five star hotel with the Botnico and maybe one other in the next three or four years plus the golf course and a proper harbour, I think Puerto would be just about complete, I dont think we really need anything else. The Carousel, Ten Travels Atlantic Islands cruising offer, has seven day winter cruises until mid April, visiting Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Arrecife - Lanzarote, Agadir - Morocco, Funchal - Madeira, La Palma and Gran Canaria. With the exception of the Agadir/Madeira stretch, where there is a full day at sea, most of the sailing is done overnight leaving ample time to enjoy the excellent organised excursions.

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