Tourists visiting Formentor. | EFE

Dolores Corujo is the Lanzarote equivalent of Catalina Cladera, the president of the Council of Mallorca. From the same party as Cladera, PSOE, Corujo is the president of the Lanzarote Cabildo, the island’s council. The two presidents share certain tourism objectives, e.g. control of the number of visitors and a desire for increased spending by these visitors in order to generate greater wealth. It is on these objectives where they tend to diverge, but only in terms of how they’ve expressed things.

Cladera is careful in her choice of language. No, she couldn’t prevent her director for tourism promotion, Lucia Escribano, having made comments at the London WTM fair in November (which were then misreported), but she wouldn’t have made observations as Corujo did at the Fitur fair in Madrid in January, which were subsequently conflated in the way that they were - Lanzarote wants fewer British tourists, while other nationalities spend more in any event.

There are plenty of lessons for politicians and officials regarding what they say. It’s often best to say nothing or to do as Cladera does, which is to stick to a sustainability and quality script in a non-specific manner. Media vultures hover, ever ready to devour statements, and if these utterances are made in Mallorca, then so much the better. Where Lanzarote is concerned, there would have been nothing to devour at the start of September 2021 when Corujo met British consulate officials to discuss strengthening air connectivity between the UK and the island. Over the course of some eighteen months, she wouldn’t have revised her opinion of the importance of British tourism, but she would have been fully aware, both pre and post-pandemic, of the risk of having the type of dependence that Lanzarote has on British tourism.

It’s common sense to wish to diversify markets and it is, moreover, along the lines that have been said in the Balearics over the years and even down to the micro level of individual resorts - Magalluf most obviously. When Melià set about its Calvia Beach transformation, it was quite openly stated that a reliance on the UK was not wise. And if an eating into British market share was by, for instance, Russians with deeper pockets, then so be it.

There is an over-dependence, even if in Mallorca in general this is not as great as the over-dependence on Germany. But it’s not as if we haven’t been here before with an apparent desire to shed some Brits in favour of other nationalities. Corujo and Lanzarote have now been picked on, a reason having been the spending angle. I can’t speak for Lanzarote, but if it is at all like the Balearics, then this is a fallacy. Corujo had apparently referred to developing markets, such as the French, Italian and Spanish, all of which - on average and according to Balearic tourism ministry figures - spend less than the British, who are on a par with the Germans.

The reference to French, Italian and Spanish is, however, echoed in Mallorca. Corujo would have been acknowledging what occurred in Mallorca last year; namely a decrease in British (and German) tourism compared with pre-pandemic 2019 but an increase in these other three markets. And what do you know? Mallorca has been looking to attract even more French, Italians and Spanish this year, only to now discover that the British and Germans are in full recovery mode.

Notwithstanding the fact that in Mallorca and presumably also in Lanzarote official tourism statistics (the only objective source available) tend not to support the low-spending British hypothesis, Corujo and Lanzarote have copped for the outrage that is normally reserved for Mallorca by a British press that knows full well that a combination of summer holidays in the sun and some alleged anti-Britishness drives web page traffic through the roof. It is perhaps an understanding of readerships, those only too willing to be seduced by foreigners perceived to be acting in a supposedly unwelcoming manner and wanting to get their own back for Brexit; all the usual nonsense, therefore, and media pandering to it and driving it as well.

What gets missed in all this are the real issues, which aren’t anything like as new as are made out. Corujo mentioned “saturation”. Well, in Mallorca this started to be spoken about at the end of the sixties. Yes, even in Franco’s days there were people prepared to question what was happening to the island. And when the oil crisis occurred, the questions increased and concerned the almost total reliance on British tour operators, as was the case in the early seventies.

By the turn of the millennium, the quality-quantity equation had become a major point of discussion. It has been amusing, nay ridiculous, to encounter some disparagement of President Armengol for having been pressing the quality rather than quantity button in recent days. Ridiculous because it was being said at least twenty years ago (and has been said ever since). In 2001, the Germans were implicated in a lack of quality row thanks to some poorly chosen words by certain Mallorcan politicians. Bild went on the offensive, indignant at the prospect of the Biergärten and Schlagermusik of the Ballermann being under threat.

Senior figures do have to be careful what they say. Even the most sensible objectives risk being undermined by their words being misconstrued, as foreign media aren’t overly concerned with presenting a complete backstory - the stresses on resources and the environment, the overpopulation, the climate crisis and, yes, bad and disrespectful behaviour by some visitors - while at the same time appear to believe that the islands exist solely for touristic entertainment. Whose islands are they, anyway?