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Vacation Journal
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trip report from a very busy week on Isla

By: islazone (View Profile)
Date: 3/8/2008

We visited Isla over the New Years holiday week –a trip we have made a number of times. This time I found a hotel with a comfortable bed AND a nice strong hot shower. Sorry I won’t tell where! Here are some observations – good and bad. We love the island and the people and we offer this report as a realistic report of our visit and our observations.

As always it was busier than ever but the cool weather seemed to hold down some of the crowds.

I saw more people trying to use credit cards and overall more credit card use than ever before – often they were told “no plastic”. Really a good-sized business has no excuse for not accepting credit cards. I prefer Pesos or Cash but plastic seems to be something that new and casual tourists expect to be able to use.

The food and service was better this year – is that possible? - Notable was a fish dish I had with Diablo Sauce. It was dark at our table down by the water but I am positive there were sun-dried tomatoes in there. Freddy’s was also a highlight.

We finally tried Garrafon Park and I am willing to admit I was wrong about this place. It is too expensive but it was a very nice day and our daughter’s favorite place of the trip. If you can put aside the cost – which is easily 2 – 3 x a typical day of beach or beach clubbing - it is a nice treat. We stayed till closing time and discovered a secret – a worker doing the daily hand feeding of big buckets of frozen fish to hundreds of fish. No wonder the snorkeling is good.

This trip I saw a widening of the gap between the higher dollar luxury tourists and the regular visitors. Examples – the woman who turned her nose up when she saw the French Bistro – she had obviously been to bistros in France and wasn’t the least impressed – too bad for her we enjoyed our dinner there. The cold weather seemed to help the shops – more shoppers and it seemed there was some good high-end spending going on. We bought another blanket and a handful of other items that filled our bags for the trip home.

Folks – sorry to say this but the Island is truly trashed in a lot of places. By that I mean there is trash and litter (and rubble) everywhere. There really is no excuse for some of it. All that crap on the roof across from our hotel is an eyesore – I don’t mean the remnants of an unfinished second floor – I am talking about garbage. This is the first trip I was concerned about broken glass on the beach. The funk and standing water after a good rain is not charming. Don’t get that street water into any open cuts on your feet! Even the fountain in the square was funky and it is what- 1 year old? When you are in the square and the fountain is running – do you seriously let your kids run under the spray? These aesthetic issues are a factor that will limit growth but more importantly these problems limit prosperity on Isla. Next trip I am bringing a few garbage bags for my long morning walks. Any idea where I can dispose of my full garbage bags each day?

The smell of gasoline and fumes from all the boats when it is busy is becoming a problem. If I can smell it then why shouldn’t I assume there is stuff in the water? The current flows across the harbor area directly through the beaches in front of Posada through Sergios. BTW where do all these people on the beach from Posada to Sergios pee? Sergio’s has a bathroom but isn’t that the only one along that stretch? It adds up… That nasty stomach flu you got – it didn’t have to come from suspect tacos it can also come from taking a swim in polluted water. With recent erosion these are the main beaches left and they are getting lots of pressure – it shows.

Speaking of Sergio’s – sorry to say something has changed. We got there early to claim a nice spot by the water but we couldn’t get served and there were no umbrellas available. The beach between the two docks later became parking for a couple of the big boats bringing tourists. Later when we tried some food…worst of the week. My guess is that Sergio has decided to concentrate on the restaurant and bar service rather than the waterside service we appreciated in years past. We also noticed his servers trudging rather than the hustle we so admired from previous servers such as Ziggy and Rogelio and Elvis. Maybe it was a bad day but I think we saw the same thing more than once during the week. We will try it again next time but really there are so many options.

This is easily the busiest we have ever seen the holiday week. More day trippers than ever before. More big boats bringing in day trippers. Ultramar seems to be struggling to keep the ferries running at full capacity during the highest season.

Some of these factors change the tipping point when it comes to visitors deciding on returning. Attention business owners – it is RETURNING customers that provide your profit. Don’t try fleecing customers in the belief that there is an endless supply of wealthy big spenders. The overwhelming majority of business owners do a great job – thank you.

Last year I posted a story with some negatives and there are some readers that reacted very strongly. As I read the reactions they seemed to fit into 3 categories. There are posters here that have a financial interest in this website as a marketing tool. These “don’t worry be happy” owners and other business people seek to develop tourists that pay high prices, pay big tips, and complain very little. There is another group that is just plain giddy about Isla and they are partly blinded by a love for this beautiful place. A third group indicates through email that they share my concerns and hopes for positive change. Keep in mind my comments are not directed at you personally.

Isla is faced with some serious challenges – businesses need to turn it up a notch or risk being run out by chains and other bigger businesses. Subway sandwiches and Burger King (or even worse) would do well on Isla and this would be a shame. Shame on me for not working harder to protect and fix the many issues that seem to be constantly challenging this wonderful natural and cultural treasure.

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