When it comes to guaranteed sun, not many places trump Tenerife. With a balmy year-round average temperature of 21 degrees celsius and a stonking 335 days of sun each year, this Canary Island provides an alluring sanctuary in stark contrast to the sodden UK.
It’s therefore no surprise that on Thursday when the 14-day quarantine was dropped for visiting Brits, enquiries soared. I too was one of those Brits, frantic in my attempts to secure my first quarantine-free overseas jaunt of the year. It’s no wonder that my outbound flight on Monday was near capacity.
Despite a surge in bookings, passenger safety remains the priority. At Tenerife South Airport, my passenger locator form is scanned, my temperature is checked and I’m reminded to use the provided hand sanitiser stations. As I pick up my rental car, I’m informed that the vehicle is thoroughly sanitised, and sticker seals on the doors reassure me of that. All that’s left for me to do is enjoy the sea views as I make the 20-or-so mile journey to my hotel… and try to remember to drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Tenerife’s west coast provides miles of unspoiled, rocky shoreline and is so idyllic that many of the island’s boutique resorts are dotted along its perimeter. My hotel, the five-star Gran Meliá Palacio De Isora is a sprawling, subtropical resort with 469 luxury guest rooms, five private garden villas, Europe’s largest hotel infinity pool and Tenerife’s best microclimate.
The hotel’s increased safety measures are much like what you’d expect for an accommodation of this category, with paper menus replaced with QR codes among other new protocols. To both assure and entice during the pandemic, especially since the UK lost its air bridges in July, they’ve had to offer discounts on stays.
Now that holidays are back on for British holidaymakers, the tide has begun to turn. “Our reservations are going up every day, every minute almost,” says hotel general manager Saad Azzam. “Last week we were at 23% occupancy, and this week we’re already at around 35%.”
It’s not just last-minute getaways that people are after. Dropping the quarantine has also given hope to British holidaymakers that a Tenerife Christmas could be on the cards, but Azzam is concerned about the long-term situation: “November and December are going very well, but for it to continue we need to see more testing.”
He continues, “No testing puts everyone who lives and works in Tenerife at risk. We’re very flexible as a resort – people can book in advance and change dates or receive a refund if they have to cancel. Really, we’re very pleased to see customers from the UK return.”
While it’s tempting to lounge by the pool or take immediate advantage of the jacuzzi on my balcony, I’m keen to see how other parts of the coast are coping. Just a 10-minute drive from Alcalá is the hillside resort town of Los Gigantes. Famed for its dramatic cliff formations, black sandy beaches and dolphin-dappled coastline, this popular holiday resort is normally humming with foreign activity… but not today.
I park up on a layby and take a stroll down towards the harbour. On my left, I pass Santorini-like bright white houses with passageways that tantalisingly provide glimpses of the deep blue Atlantic – and, further ahead, the lesser-known island of La Gomera. As I descend through the town, many bars are closed, tour operator offices are empty and passers-by are scarce.
This may be ideal if you’re after a safe, quiet holiday, but it’s damning for the local travel industry. I pass Tui Blue Los Gigantes, a large hotel resort which shows no signs of life. Even popular Irish pub Highland Paddy is closed. To the pub’s side, however, is a pretty little square centred around Catholic church Parroquia del Espìritu Santo, where two cafes are frequented by locals.
One of which is Buganvilla Plaza, where I sit down for tapas. When waitress Maria brings over my chorizo cooked in cider and Iberian croquettes, she says it’s good to see a British person here. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been serving British people,” Maria says. “We need tourists back, because look around, most things are closed.”
Further down the town is Los Guios beach, a small, sandy bay behind the harbour that provides the closest look at the hulking rock formations of Los Gigantes. Neighbouring gift shops like Cocodrilo Bazar are plastered with “oferta!” (offer) signs, but nobody is biting because the tourists haven’t returned yet.
As Saad and Maria say, livelihoods are at risk. For Tenerife’s resorts and holiday towns to bounce back, we need to see a uniform approach on testing. Blocking off travel routes is damaging; cheap, airport testing is a necessity.
Richard Franks was a guest of the Gran Meliá Palacio De Isora resort in Alcalá, Tenerife. Doubles from €165/£149 per night on bed and breakfast basis; visit melia.com. British Airways offers direct flights from London Heathrow to Tenerife in November from £100 return; visit ba.com.
Read Telegraph Travel’s full guide to Tenerife.