After training in a workshop school, José M. Pérez and two other colleagues founded one of the first active tourism companies on the island in 1997, Patea Tus Montes, which celebrates its 25th anniversary
Patea Tus Montes turns 25, how did it all start?
We were students at a trade center organized by the La Orotava City Council, focused on rural tourism and the environment, and after completing the training in December 1996, two colleagues and I created the Patea Tus Montes hiking and adventure company. First in a very local way. We left ten students from that workshop school, little by little each other fell apart until the three of us who founded Patea Tus Montes remained: Cirilo, José Luis and me.
In 1997 practically nobody talked about active tourism, was there competition?
There was very little supply, only some companies focused exclusively on foreign tourism, basically Germans.
When is he alone in front of the project?
Starting in 2002 or 2003, I was left alone to lead the project. It had a lot of energy at that time, it was a wheel of fire. However, I recognize that if I hadn’t initially lived in my parents’ house, the business project would have been totally unfeasible. Little by little it grew and I was able to become independent and live from this.
What offer did you start with?
The first thing was to show the residents of La Orotava the paths of the municipality. That’s how we started. Then, for a long time we focused on environmental education. We knocked on the doors of town halls and schools to take the kids out into nature. That was the initial pillar. We didn’t do anything we do now. Currently we have hiking, climbing Teide, canyoning, initiation to sport climbing and sea kayaking, in summer. And many more things, such as collaborating in training initiatives or with the Puchi Méndez program, every Wednesday at Ser for 8 years.
What have been the great milestones in the trajectory of Patea Tus Montes?
We made a leap at the International Tourism Fair (Fitur) in 2004, with the special mention for the best active tourism product in Spain for the Salto del Pastor Canario product. We introduced it in our activities. We went to the Masca ravine and he carried the spear to publicize this practice. However, what undoubtedly gave us the big kick-off was the Route of the Titans, for which they gave us another Special Mention for the Best Active Tourism Product in Spain at Fitur 2011.
How important has Fitur been for your history?
Uf!, Fitur has given us what no one imagines. It has been the big screen abroad, which has really made us known. In 2017 we were absolute winners of Fitur Activo, in the Enogastronomy section, with the product Los Tres Sabores de las Medianías.
How has active tourism evolved on the islands?
Everything has become more professional, now there is a specific training for mountain and canyoning sports technicians. And the Government of the Canary Islands has realized its importance. When we went to Fitur in 2004, nature was not so important, and now it is key. It has become more professional, but at the same time it is such a greedy job niche that in active tourism intrusion is something tremendous, enormous, almost wild. Half of the people do not meet the minimum required by the Government of the Canary Islands, but there is no control. It is very difficult. We move on uneven terrain, with irregular hours and we do not receive inspection visits. Little by little, and only through denunciations, the intrusiveness has been given visibility. And always because someone, already desperate, has denounced.
What routes do you recommend?
Now I’m very meticulous about it. Everything is so overwhelmed that I no longer give away information. It’s all super crazy. The load capacity of sensitive environments has been brutally exceeded after confinement. You didn’t see what you see now before.
Has the pandemic overcrowded natural environments?
Yes, one hundred percent. And whoever tells me otherwise is lying. He has not massified it, he has burst it in some cases. All the most popular natural places on Instagram are now saturated. It occurs in La Cruz del Carmen; El Pijaral, and what is happening in the Teide National Park is unfortunate: drones, people climbing everywhere, 200 people climbing the ice with the Teide peak trail closed, garbage and destruction in the Altavista refuge.. Although everything is closed, people skip the prohibitions. To give you an idea, we no longer offer Anaga on our route calendar on weekends. It’s all full of people. I hope this wave passes. We don’t want the mountain just for us, but we have to spread out. Where do I go on a Sunday? Well, to Fasnia, Arico or Chío. I only go to Anaga during the week. In addition, a lot of information is missing and many risks are assumed. People get into dangerous places and then the authorities close them also to companies: we can no longer go to El Pijaral, or Las Ventanas de Güímar, or Canal de Bejía in Anaga, or Los Canales de Teno, or to Barranco Seco, nor to the Masca ravine nor to the Hell ravine. There are more and more prohibited sites, however you can go to Los Canales de Güímar with a Facebook group, but not with Patea Tus Montes. Anyone hangs a track to reach places on foot that can only be reached with ropes. They put moderate difficulty and whoever goes there to take a picture takes a huge risk.
Is the solution to increase vigilance?
There is no means to control, but the answer is yes and no. Are they going to be watching us all the time? It would create a lot of jobs, but I’m not sure that’s the solution. If you talk to me about the Teide National Park, I tell you yes, it requires much more vigilance. Although the resources might also have to be invested in improving the information for visitors.
Are tourists the key to the problem?
I don’t like to say it, but I think so. They do not know many things and they do it without realizing it. You also have to be careful with the advertising that is done. We cannot sell inaccessible places or places recorded with drones if it is a prohibited activity in the promotions of the island.