The popular Spanish holiday destination of Lanzarote is sticking to its guns in its bid to ‘desaturate’ the island from too many tourists and become less dependent on British visitors.
Island president María Dolores Corujo says the authority has no intention of changing its mind amid claims that the new approach is already damaging Lanzarote’s image, and that other islands are struggling with the approach.
She has also accused opposition councillors from the Popular Party of scaremongering and joining in a ‘disinformation campaign’.
‘We are going to continue to promote the debate on the limits to growth even though they try to gag us with the ghost of fear of damage to the image of Lanzarote,’ she insisted.
Ms Corujo’s comments also came as the director of the Spanish Tourist Office in the United Kingdom insisted the country would not ‘discriminate by type of visitor’.
The popular Spanish holiday destination of Lanzarote (pictured, file photo) is sticking to its guns in its bid to ‘desaturate’ the island from too many tourists and become less dependent on British visitors, despite some fears that the plan could damage the island’s image
Manuel Butler told MailOnline that while Spain’s ‘travel industries need to work together to address the challenges of mass tourism,’ the country’s main focus was on ‘becoming a more sustainable and competitive tourism destination’.
Lanzarote’s island government has yet to reveal details of how the desaturation will be done but one major holiday hotspot on the island, which is part of the Canaries off the coast of northwestern Africa, has already started to prepare its own plans.
Famara on the northwest coast of Lanzarote is a massive tourist hotspot because of its scenic beauty and sandy beach which attracts surfers from all over the world.
But locals say it is a classic example of saturation, with environmentalists describing it as a ‘red dot on over-tourism’ on the island map.
Residents, business owners, ecologists, clubs and associations have just held the first in a series of meetings to ‘propose solutions to the overcrowding of parts of the beach’ and the town in general.
They were joined by the island government’s environment minister, Elena Solís.
Discussing the current situation in the resort, the meeting agreed that ‘Famara is saturated, there are too many people, cars and rubbish.’
They also agreed there were too many vehicles, including caravans and motorhomes, and too many cars driving around looking for spaces.
They also quoted ‘uncivil behaviour’ and an absence of a tourist strategy among the shops, restaurants and surf schools.
Olaya Gracia, from Ecologistas en Acción (Ecologists in Action), said everyone was aware that there was a problem and that it was not about going ‘against each other’ but about putting things in common.
And Carmen Portella, from the organisation Desert Watch, said: ‘The situation is unsustainable and is getting worse.’ And she added: ‘You have to sacrifice people, not nature, which is already sacrificed enough.’
Ideas which might be considered at future meetings include limiting access to the beach road and more protection for the natural park area.
Lanzarote’s president Dolores Corujo sparked widespread controversy last month when she declared the island was saturated and wanted to change its approach to tourism.
Lanzarote island president María Dolores Corujo (pictured second-right) says the authority has no intention of changing its mind amid claims that the new approach is already damaging Lanzarote’s image, and that other islands are struggling with the approach
Lanzarote’s island government has yet to reveal details of how the desaturation will be done but Famara (pictured, file photo) – a holiday hotspot on the island which is part of the Canaries off the coast of northwestern Africa – has already started to prepare its own plans
This stance, she said, would mean aspiring to receive fewer tourists, ‘with greater spending in the destination so that they generate greater wealth in the economy as a whole’ – in other words, attracting more upmarket tourists.
As more than half of the island’s visitors come from the UK, it would be necessary to adopt ‘a diversification strategy to reduce dependence on the British market.’
Growth was therefore expected in the French, Italian, Dutch and peninsular markets which would have a direct impact on the increase in tourist spending at the destination. Many people took this to mean Lanzarote was fed-up with having so many British tourists who don’t spend as much as other nationalities.
Opposition councillors have criticised the island’s government, called the Cabildo, and say the president’s remarks are damaging Lanzarote’s tourism image.
Others say ‘nothing will happen’ as it has been talked about before.
A member of the political party Podemos Canarias said Dolores Corujo probably had no inclination as to the outcry her remarks would generate, describing it as ‘an announcement which could forever change the way our people earn their bread.’
But the island president says opposition parties like the Popular Party are ‘spreading fear which doesn’t exist’, including within the British market.
And she said the plans for desaturation should be welcomed, not opposed, because they would improve the tourist offering on the island, not detract from it.
‘The great challenges of Lanzarote involve limiting tourism growth as a step prior to a process of decrease which makes it possible to reduce the accommodation offer while maintaining, and even improving, the income produced by those who visit the island,’ she said.
‘The Balearic Islands, the Costa del Sol or Barcelona are constantly in the news for their attempts to limit the growth of the number of vehicles associated with tourism, rationalise the arrival of cruise ships or control the growth of vacation rentals without generating any reputational crisis in the issuing markets.
On the contrary, that a destination makes an effort to guarantee its conservation is always good news for those who visit it,’ said Dolores Corujo.
‘We are going to continue to promote the debate on the limits to growth, even though they try to gag us with the ghost of fear of damage to the image of Lanzarote and regardless of whoever is, the only viable model has to be based on social and environmental sustainability.’
Meanwhile, Manuel Butler, Director of the Spanish Tourist in the UK, told MailOnline: ‘Spain is a socially inclusive destination and we do not discriminate by type of visitor. It is true that our travel industries need to work together to address the challenges of mass tourism, not just in Spain but around the world, to achieve a model which is more responsible and mitigates the environmental footprint.
‘For Spain, our strategy is focused on becoming a more sustainable and competitive tourism destination which addresses seasonal and geographical challenges, supports local industries and jobs and helps preserve local heritage and culture.
‘It is true that a few destinations in Spain are putting in measures to encourage more responsible tourism behaviour, but ultimately, we are proud to be a welcoming country that is open to visitors from all different backgrounds and walks of life.’
On Monday, it was reported that a move to snub ‘budget’ British tourists in search for ‘upmarket’ holidaymakers is causing misery for residents in Mallorca and Ibiza who are now forced to live in vans because of soaring prices.
Famara (pictured, file image) on the northwest coast of Lanzarote is a massive tourist hotspot because of its scenic beauty and sandy beach which attracts surfers from all over the world. But locals say it is a classic example of saturation, with environmentalists describing it as a ‘red dot on over-tourism’ on the island map
Locals from the Balearic islands said they had been left wondering how they would ‘survive’ and afford to rent or buy properties amid increasing prices that have been driven by a shift towards upscale tourists who can afford more expensive properties.
‘People are now looking at how to survive,’ Rona Pineda, 32, who shares a two-bedroom apartment with a couple in Mallorca, told Bloomberg. ‘If you have a normal salary, it’s very difficult to find a place to live nowadays.’
The comments came after the director of tourism for Mallorca, Lucia Escribano, last year declared her industry chiefs ‘are not interested in having budget tourists from the UK’ – as the island attempts to rebrand itself from a destination for cheap drinks and beach parties by limiting the number of UK tourists.
Escribano recently said that she had been misquoted, with tourism bosses in Palma insisting that they were looking forward to welcoming a record number of Brits.