IT’S 10.30pm and grey-haired crowds are emptying from the local bars and restaurants to flag down taxis after watching the football.
Just an hour earlier, the only music blaring from one local hotel disco was kids’ favourite Baby Shark.
Lucy and Finlay, both 19, from Merseyside, says there’s no way Lanzarote would make money without the British there[/caption]
More than 50 per cent of visitors to Lanzarote currently come from the United Kingdom, totalling 1.3 million in 2019[/caption]
The closest thing to a brawl is one elderly gentleman who insists “no, no, after you” as I walk through the narrow pathway back to my hotel.
It is clear that Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote’s well-manicured tourist centre, is a long, long way from Shagaluf.
Yet despite the impeccable manners of the British tourists who keep this place alive, the local government has reportedly said it wants to woo a “higher quality” class of visitor from Germany instead.
And it’s not gone down well with tourists from the UK.
On the island this week, holidaymaker Anthony Fitzpatrick, 58, from Wigan, said: “It’s like, ‘Here’s your schnitzel and eat that’.
“They complain about us but our tourism built this island. It’s a very short memory to now say ‘Bugger off — we want a better quality.’”
Anthony’s wife Sue, 52, says: “People work hard for their money.
“It’s not for me but if they want to go and have drinks, if they want to have fish and chips, that’s fine.
“Surely it’s the same money that’s boosting the economy in Lanzarote?”
Never since Michael Palin uttered the phrase “Lanza-grotty” has the Canary island been so up in arms.
‘I had to be up at 7am to put towel on sunlounger’
Lanzarote has an annual influx of 1.3million British holidaymakers who contributed to its £2.1billion annual tourist income last year, according to the Lanzarote Data Centre.
And it is clear that the comments made by local council president Maria Dolores Corujo have touched a nerve.
Ahead of a tourism fair in Berlin this month, she said: “It is essential to work on the diversification of the sector and the growth of markets such as Germany, which are in line with our intentions to gamble on higher quality tourism and higher spending at the destination, to the detriment of mass tourism.”
Steve Heapy, CEO of budget British airline Jet2, has waded into the debate, writing to Corujo to clarify what “higher quality tourism means.”
He says the statement could have “a very detrimental effect on British tourists choosing Lanzarote”.
The Tourist Federation of Lanzarote also asked Corujo to clear up her statement, pointing out the island’s “very strong ties” to the UK market.
And the negative press has panicked British expats who make up five per cent of Lanzarote’s 130,000 population.
Most have set up their own hospitality businesses geared towards UK holidaymakers.
Geraldine McFadden, who co-owns a number of bars and restaurants, says her biggest customers are British and Irish who party way harder than Germans.
At her bar Cafe del Ola in Puerto del Carmen, Brits order lunchtime cocktails and tuck into pizzas while the in-house DJ plays.
Geraldine, 55, who is originally from Ireland, said: “The English and the Irish bring us our bread and butter.
“They’re the ones ordering beers since nine o’clock in the morning.”
But in her experience, the party culture that the British lap up is hardly what tourists from Germany would call wunderbar.
She said: “I managed a hotel for five years, and the Germans wanted the music to finish at nine. The English and Irish wondered what was going on. They wanted to have some music and dancing.
“It’s very, very difficult mixing German tourists with British. They have a very different way of spending a holiday.
“The Germans want to be by the pool first thing in the morning, in bed by nine o’clock, and they don’t want noise.”
Friends Lucy Almond and Finlay Murray, both 19, from Merseyside, are on the island with their families.
Carer Finlay said: “If you don’t want to rely on the British there’s no way you’d make any money.”
At a travel fair in Madrid in February, local paper La Voz de Lanzarote reported that Corujo said the island was “saturated” and had to “reduce the dependence on the British market”.
Her statements conjured up images of loutish Brits falling over drunk and flashing the flesh.
But official figures show most of the tourists are over 50 at this time of year, while families come in the school holidays.
And student Lucy, who has visited before, reckons the island does not typically attract troublemakers.
She said: “This is more like a pub vibe. It’s not a party holiday.”
But the teen added that the decades-long tradition of racing for a sunbed in the early hours, which the Germans are notorious for, still happens at some hotels.
She said with a smile: “I came last year and I had to be up at seven in the morning to put a towel on a sunlounger and go back to bed.”
Moesha Dennis, 25, from Walsall said: “The drinks are pretty good but we didn’t come here to party.”
Moesha Dennis, 25, from Walsall said: ‘The drinks are pretty good but we didn’t come here to party’[/caption]
Dave Watson, 54, and Alison Day, 52, from Newcastle, said their resort hotel was nudging them to spend more in order to support other businesses on the island[/caption]
Now local business owners are worried about the knock-on effect on British sunseekers who are booking their summer holidays at this time of year.
Expat Rachel Bishop, who runs Lanzarote Karting in San Bartolome with her 59-year-old partner Rob Marshall, reckons more high rollers coming to the island won’t necessarily mean more profits for business owners.
She said: “They’re not the people who are going to spend money. They’ll spend money on where they’re staying, and some of the more select places. They’re not the people this island survives off at the moment.”
Rachel, 53, believes Corujo’s statements have been misinterpreted as pitting the British against Germans.
She said: “Things get taken out of context.”
After Covid shut down travel, a lot of business owners now agree that they need to be less reliant on visitors from Britain.
Holidaymakers were forced to cancel with very little notice due to the UK’s post-pandemic traffic light travel system.
Despite the hit, Lanzarote recovered 90 per cent of its total pre-Covid tourist arrivals in the first half of last year, according to tourism minister Yaiza Castillo.
But the fear of having the rug pulled from underneath them looms large in the memories of expat business owners.
Rachel said: “I don’t think anyone should be excluded or feel excluded, because there is something for everyone on this island.
“I understand what the government is trying to do by diversifying. There’s room for everyone.”
But Dave Watson and Alison Day, 52, from Newcastle, think their all-inclusive hotel has been nudging them to spend more.
Dave, 54, said: “Breakfast and lunch, the food is decent. Evening meal is not so decent.
“The hotel might be encouraging you to go out and subsidise local businesses.”
Corujo’s British-born friend Danny Trigg, who set up the Island’s expat business and residents’ association 15 years ago, says the politician has been left “really hurt” by the furore.
He beleives Corujo innocently misjudged the strength of the British-German tourist rivalry since the early days of package holidays.
Danny, 45, said: “Spanish people never understand it. You cannot translate humour.”
And he echoed how his members have been left worried by the negative attention.
He said: “Lanzarote only has tourism as a main industry. It’s such a delicate thing. If we don’t have this industry, we do not eat.”
But not everyone is quite so forgiving.
Ahead of elections this year, the local government’s opposition has been critical of Corujo’s slip-up.
Opposition leader Astrid Perez told The Sun: “I don’t expect the British to boycott Lanzarote just because of the irresponsible comments of a politician whose words don’t represent islanders’ feelings.”
Maria Dolores Corujo did not respond to The Sun’s requests for comment.
Expat Rachel Bishop, 53, runs Lanzarote Karting in San Bartolome with her partner Rob Marshall, 59[/caption]