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It’s picking at a scab, I know. But when more Google Alerts popped up with articles related to the ‘outrage’ at locals on Tenerife protesting about British tourists, I had to have a look to see what nonsense was being reported this time. The two reports included video clips from GB News and Good Morning Britain. I’ve read a lot about GB News, none of it good, and have steered clear of it so far. A smart move by what I witnessed in a clip featuring an ‘opinion for hire’ who, from her first sentence, revealed she knew nothing about Tenerife. Despite this, there she was, dishing out one-dimensional, fake pearls of wisdom. She was a prime example of the travel experts who aren’t travel experts.

The Good Morning Britain clip was equally clueless, featuring a ‘travel journalist’ who also revealed a complete lack of knowledge regarding Tenerife and the Canary Islands, talking about how tourists should respect the local culture and try Spanish food instead of fish and chips etc. As the focus of most reports are on purpose-built resorts, what little local culture or traditional food there is tends to be imported for tourists rather than organic. There is not even many ‘locals.’ A whopping 80% of the people who live in the biggest resort areas are incomers (source: official Tenerife Govt. statistics). Anyway, in the Real Tenerife, it’s Canarian cuisine rather than Spanish, but that’s being pedantic.

The two Tenerifes

The two Tenerifes.

These examples are just a form of entertainment passing as news, so should be treated as such, and not taken too seriously. But the ‘travel experts who aren’t experts’ are something I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about, mainly because Andy and I take what we do seriously and put in a lot of effort to build up our knowledge. Additionally, when I put myself on the receiving end of travel advice rather than the writing end, I want the information I get to come from someone who knows their stuff.

Operating mostly in a specialist area of travel, Slow Travel, encountering people who are busking where their travel knowledge is concerned happens regularly.

High point, La Palma, Canary Islands

Not so easy walking to get to this spot on La Palma.

The travel buskers

Some years ago, I took part in a podcast featuring representatives from the main UK specialist Slow Travel/walking companies. I learnt some interesting things and could tell who really had in-depth knowledge of the subject. But the representative of one well-known company dismissed the Canary Islands as low-level walking, despite La Palma being one of the steepest islands in the world and Tenerife boasting Spain’s highest peak in Mount Teide. They clearly had no real insight into what it was like to walk there.

Last year, we walked the length of Wales, following the contours of Offa’s Dyke. The company we used supplied us with route information … in the form of a guidebook published by Cicerone. We already had it as it’s available for anyone to buy. As people who write bespoke walking directions ourselves, and who paid a decent amount of money for the trip, I expected some degree of specialist input.

Walking Offa's Dyke, Wales

Walking Offa’s Dyke on the Welsh English border.

Having lived in Portugal, and walked extensively there, putting together Slow Travel guides, I know parts of the country well, so when I received a newsletter from another travel company promoting a gastronomic tour in North Portugal, I had to smile when I saw the image they used to illustrate the food wasn’t Portuguese at all. That’s probably more the fault of the company’s marketing team, but it didn’t help that their Portugal ‘expert’ gained their status from just a two-week fam trip.

Travel experts. Portuguese gastronomy

A selection of local specialities in Portugal.

The best example involved one of those weird karmic moments when, after checking out a potential walking route on the island of La Palma, we had just returned to our hotel in the hills at Breña Baja. As we relaxed on a wall, a coach drew up. It was full of British walkers on an organised hiking holiday. As they shuffled off into the hotel, the group leader arranged with the coach driver the time he was to return the following day. He did this by shouting increasingly loudly at the Canarian driver … in English. It was something we’ve witnessed before in resort areas, but not behaviour expected from a ‘specialist’ guide tasked with introducing visiting walkers to la Isla Bonita. Worse/better was to come when the same guide approached Andy, recognising her as a walker and probably hearing her converse in Spanish with staff, asking if she had any tips for good walking routes on the island.
If I were on that walking holiday, knowing about this would not have instilled much confidence.

There are plenty of travel writers and specialists out there who provide valuable, insightful advice and information that enhances travellers’ experiences of destinations, but there is an increasing danger of them being obscured by the crowd of travel phonies pretending to be experts.

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Jack Montgomery

Jack is an author, travel writer, photographer, and a Slow Travel consultant who has been writing professionally for twenty years. Follow Jack on Facebook for information about his writing, travel tips, photographs, and tales of life in a tiny rural village in Somerset.

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Some of the items on this site won’t be to everyone’s liking, I get that. Basically this is my place, my wee studio to mess around in – experimenting with words and thoughts. I’ll be chuffed if you enjoy it, but if you don’t, c’est la vie. As a friend used to tell me “it would be a boring life if we all thought the same.”

Jack Montgomery
A wine press,
On a farm at the end of the dirt track,
The Setúbal Peninsula,