The history of Lanzarote’s hotels echoes the way the island has changed utterly over the last century.
One hundred years ago there were no hotels on Lanzarote. The few visitors who arrived on the island would have sought lodgings at small pensions or boarding houses.
That finally changed in the 1930s, when the island’s first hotel of distinction opened. The Hotel Oriental was an elegant establishment with a large dining room, many mirrors on the walls and “uniformed staff who laid the tables with monogrammed cutlery”. This building still stands, dilapidated and long closed, opposite the HiperDino supermarket at the top end of Calle Real in Arrecife.
In 1951, Arrecife saw the arrival of its Parador Nacional. The paradores were a state-sponsored scheme that built hotels throughout Spain, and many of these establishments are still open in other parts of Spain. Lanzarote’s Parador was on the seafront, in the white building now occupied by the UNED distance learning university. One of its most famous guests was film star Raquel Welch.
The parador was followed by the Hotel Miramar, also on the seafront of Arrecife, in 1959. Arrecife saw another hotel, the Lancelot, open its doors in 1969, and the tallest building on the island, the Gran Hotel, was completed in 1970.
The real change came in October 1967, when the Hotel Fariones opened its doors in what is now Puerto del Carmen. Along with the opening of the desalination plant in 1965, this is probably the most important event in Lanzarote’s tourist history – the starting pistol for the island’s race to become one of Europe’s most popular sun, sea, and sand destinations.
Five years later, in 1972, the construction of the Hotel San Antonio, a few kilometres along the coast from the Fariones, laid the axis for what would become the modern resort and its long, busy “Strip.” At the San Antonio’s opening ceremony, the Spanish Tourism Minister, Alfredo Sanchez, pledged that a 200-bedroom hotel would be built in Jameos del Agua. It never happened.
This would not be the only failed project. In 197, work on the Atlante del Sol, a 500-bed hotel on the wild coast of Yaiza, was abandoned. The project was the idea of a German promotor, but local workers were the real victims of the unpaid wages. The hotel still stands abandoned, slowly decaying and filled with with ancient sun beds, sinks and other facilities that have been in place for 50 years without ever being used.
In 1977, the wild and unpredictable architect Fernando Higueras, a long-time friend of César Manrique, finished work on the Hotel Melin Salinas, the first five-star hotel on the island, and the cornerstone of the resort of Costa Teguise.
Since the 1970s, several more hotels have risen up on the island, and these pleasure palaces are now central elements of the island’s economy. While hotels are often criticised by environmentalists, they are also pioneers in sustainable tourism, recycling, and renewable energy.
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