Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, has opened his gob before engaging his brain once more, causing an outcry on the Canary Islands. But is the controversial airline owner simply just trying to address new trends in tourism?
During a recent meeting with Israel’s Tourist Minister, O’Leary announced “People are fed up with destinations like the Canary Islands and such places. Israel has wonderful beaches and very good food. If we can offer reasonable prices then Israel with its weather and beautiful beaches can become a preferred destination. We can bring millions more to Israel. We can grow as fast as the authorities allow us to.”Read more...
While it’s possible that O’Leary just plucked the example of the Canaries out of the air while trying to butter up a new market, his statements caused anger in the Canaries. Tías Mayor Pancho Hernández wrote: “Lanzarote receives three million visitors a year, and the Canaries 14 million, who come for the climate, our natural beauty and the way we treat people. We rely on the co-operation and support of tour operators, airlines and professionals. If this is what the President of Ryanair thinks of the islands, I can also say that I think that what people are really fed up with is Ryanair’s services. But he doesn’t talk about that.”
Ryanair has been operating in Israel since 2015, and connects the airports of Eilat, Ovda and Tel Aviv with 13 European destinations, mostly in Eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. In 2018, Ryanair flew 602,000 passengers to and from Israel. However, O’Leary wishes to expand and even provide domestic flights in the country.
It’s also pretty clear that O’Leary wasn’t referring to the British and Irish as being “fed up” with the Canaries. Ryanair continues to be the major budget operator connecting Lanzarote with the UK and Ireland, and Ryanair have no plans to connect either country with Israel. Ryanair were also careful to ensure that last September’s flight cancellations fiasco did not affect Canarian routes.
Nevertheless, Canarian authorities, as well as Mr O’Leary will be very conscious of the effect of Brexit on flights in the near future, while the rise of Israel as a competitor for the Canaries also gives notice that the good fortune that the Canaries has enjoyed in recent years due to the collapse of competing markets such as Greece and Turkey can no longer be taken for granted.