Wish you were still welcome here? As Lanzarote looks to DITCH British tourists, a look at what we’d miss out on… from camel-trekking to black-sand beaches
- Lanzarote became the go-to destination with the advent of the package holiday
- Britons have flooded the island for decades but are now being told to stay away
Up until the 1970s, Lanzarote was a volcanic outpost famed more for its fertile soil than its pristine beaches.
But the advent of the package holiday turned the little known Spanish island into the perfect getaway for sun-starved Brits.
Year-round sun, picturesque coastlines, luxury hotels and cheap cervezas made the Canary Island the European destination of choice for travellers to bronze their beer bellies on the sought-after sun loungers.
The resort offered camel treks across its scorched landscape, watersports and beautiful vistas to tempt the hordes of Britons who would come back year after year.
But all that is set to change now after the local government decided it has had enough of British tourists ‘saturating’ the island.
Bathers relax and play in the water by volcanic rocks on Lanzarote’s coast at the Janubio black beach
The haunt is now deliberately pursuing a policy of tourist decline to ‘guarantee the future of generations to come’ and will actively appeal to other regions to lessen its dependency on Britain.
The move is a major shift from its marketing four decades ago to the aspiring British holidaymaker.
In the 1950s and 1960s, package holidays were seen as exclusive getaways for a select few holidaymakers able to splash the cash.
The introduction of a British European Airways route to Valencia in 1957, with the term Costa Blanca coined for the area as a marketing ploy, saw southern Spanish jaunts boom.
But the expensive trips priced out the middle market, and the Canary Islands were still an unlikely destination for the average Briton.
Back then, Lanzarote was a fishing island that exported potatoes, fruit and vegetables grown in its nutrient rich soil after multiple eruptions.
Britons dine al fresco admiring the stunning views in the Old Town of Puerto Del Carmen on the island
A stream of tourists go camelback riding in the Timanfaya National Park in the Canary Islands getaway
A P&O ferry docks at Arrecife de Lanzarote with thousands of British tourists on board in December 2022
A promotional tourist brochure produced for travel agents in 1982 showcased the island’s stunning landscape
A windsurfer and his dog dressed as Father Christmas sail off the coast of Mareta Near Teguise
Previously, it was overrun by pirates in the 1300s who would come ashore to rape and pillage the locals, before it was conquered by Spain in the early 1400s.
In the 1730s, the island was hit by a series of major volcanic eruptions, with lava covering a quarter of its surface.
A drought then suffocated the region in 1768, forcing a mass exodus of locals.
By the 1900s, the island started to become more popular, but it was not until the arrival of low-cost holiday packages in the 1970s thanks to cheap air travel that Lanzarote turned into what it is today.
Before the sudden influx, Lanzarote had been improving its infrastructure by extending its airports and building hotels to accommodate the looming tourism boom.
Resorts like Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca became the go-to destinations for travellers from around the world.
A British couple enjoy an al fresco salad lunch with a glass of wine while on holiday in Lanzarote in 1993
Lanzarote has a unique landscape with over 200 volcanoes and there are stunning vistas of the island from above
Tourists buy volcanic rocks in 2003 on the popular getaway island
The Puerto del Carmen beach is lined with tourists in 1997 when the island was welcoming thousands every year
A group of pensioners enjoy a camelback ride in 1968 when the package holiday was starting to attract holidaymakers
But to ensure the island retained its identity, the government ordered that two thirds of its surface are free from typical tourist establishments.
This ironically has made the destination even more desirable, offering an authentic Canary Island retreat while still catering to the Britons wanting their Full English breakfasts washed down with a pint.
The volcanic landscape is even recognised as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
The island, with a census of just 151,000 inhabitants, received 2.5 million tourists until November 2022, 17 times its population.
More than half of the huge throng of tourists descending on the hotspot come from the UK.
Island leaders are now pursuing a new tourism strategy to become less dependent on Britons.
More than half of the huge throng of tourists descending on the hotspot come from the UK (pictured: Playa Blanca in 2007)
The then prime minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha sit among British tourists in 2014
Britons can never be too far from their home comforts as one canny Spanish businessman found with his Little Britain Cafe
Tourists ride on a raft at at Playa Blanca beach on April 13, 2014 in Lanzarote
English tourists have dinner on the Puerto del Carmen promenade in 2014
It was not until the arrival of low-cost holiday packages in the 1970s thanks to cheap air travel that Lanzarote turned into what it is today (pictured: 1982 brochure)
The Island Council has advanced the idea of declaring itself a ‘tourist-saturated area’, something for which they assure there is ‘a broad social consensus’.
Lanzarote will instead court the French, Italian and Dutch and peninsular markets.
Tourism leaders say although the objective is shared, massive investments will be needed to attract a tourist with higher spending, such as the beaches and infrastructure.
And they say it is going to be a difficult job for Lanzarote to find other lucrative markets to reduce the weight of tourism.
‘There is hardly any industrial land and aquaculture is not being well received either. If the decision is not to grow tourism and at the same time there is no industrial land planning and other models are rejected, all the parties will have to ask themselves what future model they want to develop,’ said one business leader.
Hotels would also need money to upgrade themselves.
At this stage, Lanzarote’s island council hasn’t said how it plans to reduce tourism saturation or visitor numbers.
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