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Alberto Bernabé: “Innovatur has a vocation to grow the whole island”

After talking with the main Innovatur partners about what this project is and what it involves, it’s now time to hear the opinion of the Minister of Tourism, Internationalization and Foreign Affairs of Tenerife’s Island Council, and learn what has led the institution to lead this plan for the modernization of tourism in Tenerife, Madeira and the Azores, part of the MAC 2014-2020 cooperation programme, and belonging to the INTERRREG European Regional Development Fund.

 

Interview with Alberto Bernabé, minister of Tourism, Internationalization and Foreign Affairs of Tenerife’s Island Council / Photograph T.Cuadrado

 

What has led the Island Council of Tenerife to be the main partner in the Innovatur tourism modernization project?

Above all, our vocation to contribute to developing tourism in Tenerife in a manner which is permanent. In terms of tourism and innovation, for a long time – and above all with the creation of the Factoría de Innovación Turística (Tourism Innovation Factory) – the Island Council has had the political will to find meeting points between an industry which has not traditionally been very innovative and this innovative vocation that we believe a leading tourist destination must have to remain a spearhead in a sector which, in contrast to what many people believe, is very competitive and changin.

What can Innovatur mean for Tenerife’s participating tourist destinations?

Primarily, it can help them be fully aware and prepare themselves in a very focused way so they can continue competing. The sector does not wait for anyone and the ability to compete in tourism is not just about the climate and a good hotel, but covers a much broader set of factors. That is why permanently thinking about modernizing, renewing and adapting to a changing market and a changing tourist is an indispensable requirement so that zones that may be at risk of being left out of the market continue to compete with new strategies.

And what about the modernization of Tenerife’s tourism sector?

Puerto de la Cruz and Los Cristianos have many decades of hotel history and we decided it was a good idea to start with these classic zones, particularly Puerto de la Cruz which is the birthplace of tourism in our country. But in fact, the whole island of Tenerife is the ecosystem for what we’re now doing with Innovatur in these two specific tourist areas, and anything that we work on in Los Cristianos or Puerto de la Cruz can be transferred to any of Tenerife’s tourism areas. Innovatur aims to grow the whole island.

Innovatur will provide resources to the private sector to help businesses adapt to the modernization of the destination where they operate. How important are public-private partnerships for modernization and innovation in tourism?

We have always regarded them as being of the utmost importance. From the Island Council, we like to say that we shouldn’t make politics out of tourism but make policies for tourism and, from that point of view, we have always been proud of working very closely with the private sector, not only with the hotel business but also with restaurants, with commerce, … in a very loyal and very participative way.To us, it’s very clear, and for that reason it’s fantastic to be able to promote from the public sector through Innovatur to a good number of businesses from these two municipalities.

What is the place of innovation in the Island Council’s tourism strategy for the coming years?

It occupies a smaller place than it should occupy, I say ambitiously. Although we’ve made efforts to advance in terms of tourist innovation, we still have a long way to go and I look at that perhaps with a certain degree of envy. Although I admire Tenerife’s tourist position, I also admire the progress made by some tourist destinations which are ahead of us in terms of innovation. That is why I believe that we must be more ambitious in terms of tourism innovation and that in the coming years it needs to have a presence not only in institutions but also in businesses. It needs to be part of their DNA, not as a trend that we go along with through inertia, but as a vocation to make continual advances in terms of innovation together with the institutions. So, I see a promising future, but based on the awareness that we must go faster than we have gone so far.

One of the objectives of Tenerife’s Island Council is to focus on quality rather than quantity. What role can innovation play in this regard?

The commitment to quality is linked to the great growth of five-star hotels, with the search for a more demanding tourist seeking more services, such as a local cuisine in which the tourist is likely to invest a good part of their income. We need to develop a more innovative tourism business concept because when we find that behind a higher quality hotel and customer there’s more employment, more spending and more loyalty, the equation is more interesting than the one that often obsesses us, which is concerned with how many tourists we’ve attracted. In addition, the figures inevitably also have an impact on the environment, resources, roads… In this sense, innovation plays a key role.

 

How do you imagine tourism on the island of Tenerife will be in ten years? What decisions must be made to achieve this?

I imagine an evolution in which tourists naturally travel around the Island, irrespective of where they’re staying. I imagine not much more tourism than we have now but certainly better tourism. I see a tourism sector, especially in the accommodation segment, which is significantly rejuvenated. That is to say, a tourist sector that understands the necessity to develop a balance between the profitability that can be generated and the reinvestment required in the business to remain competitive. I also see a much higher number of leisure offers than we have now, where besides the obvious draws of the sun and beach, the great entertainment offered by theme parks, the Mount Teide volcano, or whale watching, we have also many more lower-key leisure offers that allow visitors to discover many aspects of Tenerife that are not currently well-known. In this way, tourism could be better spread throughout the Island and could generate a distribution of wealth which is not so concentrated in hotels and in the large centres of leisure and tourism.

What visions about tourism on the islands of Madeira and Terceira do you think it would be interesting to implant in Tenerife?

Madeira, and particularly Funchal, has been able to uniformly attract “high standing” tourists that no longer have the same weight in Tenerife. We can also learn from the Azores, and from Terceira, which are highly recognized in active tourism and their experience can enrich Tenerife’s active tourism segment.

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