Update 19th March. We’ve added Dolores Corujo’s response to this storm in full at the bottom of this article, so please scroll to the end of the page to read it. As you’ll see, she’s confirmed what we already knew and wrote about in our original article.
Every few months, the British tabloids seek to create a storm of controversy online with a big headline and an inflammatory story. The latest affects Lanzarote, when they widely reported that the island is “fed up” with British tourists. And of course, that isn’t true at all. That was never said, and what was actually said, was twisted in the articles they wrote to suit that narrative.
Why do they it?
It’s called Clickbait. They write a headline that they know isn’t actually true, but which will get people furious enough to comment on their social media posts, share them widely to friends and to large pages like Lanzarote Information’s Facebook Page, for example.
All those people then click through to read the article. The newspapers are a hot mess of adverts and autoplaying videos, and they get paid for the number of people who view them. It might be only a few cents per viewer, but if they can get a million people to view the page, it can mean tens of thousands of Euros into their coffers.
As you can see from the byline above, the “journalist” who wrote the piece is Rita Sobot. Here are a few of the headlines she’s had her byline attached to in various publications recently:
- Spain holiday warning as airport staff to walk out – find out if your flights will be affected
- Headache for Brit holidaymakers as tourists advised to wear masks inside at top Spanish resorts
- Spain holiday hotspots consider bringing back ‘some sort’ of Covid restrictions
- Travel chaos as Spanish flights are grounded and delayed after out-of-control 21-ton Chinese rocket passes over country
- Spain holiday warning as Brits face paying extra at restaurants for easy mistake
- Holiday horror as flying ants turn Spanish beaches into ‘black blankets’
- Brits in Spain warned about clubbers being injected with syringes filled with drugs
All of the above are headlines for major newspapers that appeared within the last 6 months!
Last week it was Lanzarote, this week it will be something new. The pressure is on for them to get more clicks and earn more money, and they don’t appear to care how inaccurate their spin is on anything. The only way we can stop this is to stop clicking, stop sharing and stop commenting on these things, and that means spending a moment to research the actual facts beforehand.
What was the real story in this case?
First of all nobody ever said “Lanzarote is fed up of British tourists.” That line was completely made up.
Two completely separate comments were made Cabildo President Dolores Corujo in a much wider speech talking about the future of Lanzarote tourism.
In one, she said that the island needs to reduce its reliance on the British market, and that makes perfect sense.
Currently almost half our tourism is from the UK, and if the Brits fall out of love with the island, or for whatever reason they choose not to travel here, it leaves our economy exposed. Porsche are the best example of the folly of this. In the 1980’s half their production was being sold in the United States. When USA went into recession in 1990, their sales there plummeted and almost bankrupted the company.
It’s basic economic sense for any business to spread the risk over several markets, and Lanzarote won’t aim to do that by limiting the number from any one country, (as if we could!) but we’ll seek to grow the share of the market by good marketing to other countries.
Dolores then went on to say, in a separate comment, which the press have tied together with the first, that the island needs to seek to reduce the overall tourist numbers in the future. She suggested Lanzarote has reached “saturation point,” and it’s true – witness the queues for buses and taxis and the lack of hire cars for much of 2022, and also the fact that in the summer and over Christmas there wasn’t a room to be had.
This policy, of reducing the overall number of tourists to the island, has been in place for a few years now and is already bearing fruit. In 2022, total numbers were slightly lower than in 2019, while the average spend per visitor was higher.
My own view is that we’re like a medium sized business that is at a cross roads – expand further and become a big one, or consolidate and do a better job for our existing clients. Relating that back to Lanzarote, the choice is continue the expansion, which will mean huge infrastructure investment like a second airport, better road connections, more electricity, desalination and sewerage systems and yet more accommodation. All of that threatens the very thing we all love about the island, and even our status as a Biosfera Reserve. The logical choice has to be to consolidate, slightly reduce overall numbers, but offer them an even better experience than they currently have. But this isn’t going to be a quick fix, and nobody should worry about some bizarre “quota system” limiting the number of visitors to the island from the UK, or anywhere else.
So relax. Stop clicking and sharing the links. If you see something online that doesn’t ring true, it almost certainly isn’t. I mean, seriously, do you think the President of Lanzarote would publicly state we’re “fed up” with the market that delivers 46% of our tourist economy? Of course she wouldn’t.
The President’s Response
María Dolores Corujo Berriel is The President of the Cabildo of Lanzarote. Here is her response to this situation:
You can’t clarify something that hasn’t been said. It is absolutely untrue that on the island of Lanzarote we do not want British tourism or that we want to reduce the number of British tourists. So I’ll say it once and for all: British tourism has always been, is and will always be welcome in Lanzarote.
In Lanzarote we are also lucky to have an excellent long-time resident British community, a community that is sensitive to the environment and involved in caring for and defending sustainable development of the island. We share our island character with the British and that makes the limitations of an insular, fragile and small territory like ours very well understood.
Having said this, I am saddened by the false controversy that has been unleashed concerning British tourism, which has been fueled by misinformation. The assessment I made of the future of the tourism sector on the island after returning from the International Tourism Fair in Madrid has been taken out of context by some, and deliberately misrepresented by others. I feel obliged to point out that here on Lanzarote, the controversy has been fueled by a media outlet owned by a hotelier with a court order to demolish one of his establishments.
Having said that, all tourist destinations attend trade fairs to display their attractions and capture new markets in an attempt to diversify the tourism they receive. Lanzarote has also been doing this for years, because common sense and the basic laws of economy advise us not to depend on a single source country, especially in times of uncertainty such as those we are experiencing due to the war in Ukraine. But that does not mean that we do not want British tourists, who visit us the most – quite the opposite.
Having clarified the above, what the Cabildo of Lanzarote and I as president have said and continue to say is that it is not possible to continue increasing our number of tourist places because the tourist-carrying capacity of the island is exhausted. This is nothing new: the same conclusion was reached by the Cabildo in 2003 and is shared by the vast majority of the population and the business community.
Placing our reliance on an increase in tourist places leads to overcrowding of the destination that not only worsens the quality of life of residents, but the tourist experience itself. For this reason, we want to declare the tourist-carrying capacity of the island officially exhausted and, at the same time, commit to a reasonable and permanent model of development based on quality and the elements that differentiate us as a unique tourist destination in the world. One example of this is our public network of Art, Culture and Tourism Centers.
As a result, ‘tourism development’ must not be confused with ‘increase in tourist beds’. Lanzarote receives more than 3 million tourists a year and does not need any more accommodation places; instead it needs to guide tourism development towards a qualitative and innovative growth of the complementary leisure offer that involves new products and experiences for tourists, all of which are respectful to the environment.
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