Lanzarote is waiting expectantly for news of the return of tourism, its main economic activity. To get an expert view, we spoke to Ángel Vázquez, the Councillor for Tourist Promotion at Lanzarote’s Cabildo and the most important tourist official on the island, about the prospects for the future.
How do you see the outlook for the summer season in Lanzarote? And beyond?
Summer, in principle, presents itself with reasonably positive expectations due to domestic tourism from Spain. A notable increase in this market is expected in July and August, with the programming of 89 weekly flights from the mainland, compared to the 82 in the same season of 2019. Iberia Express, Vueling and other national airlines have forecast an increase in connectivity, meaning that we have high hopes that Spanish tourism can salvage the summer season.
Beyond summer, the recovery of the sector will rely to a great extent on the decisions that are taken in the United Kingdom on June 28, and whether finally, as we all wish, the Canary Islands are placed on a green traffic light, as a recommended destination for travel.
We’re confident that the restrictions will be lifted. It would be great news because it would be a huge wake-up call for the sector, given the importance of British tourism for the island. As you know, British tourism is our main source market, accounting for 50% of all tourists who visit the island.
What damage has the pandemic done to the island’s business fabric, especially tourism companies? Would it be possible to repair it?
The damage has been tremendous, especially for those companies, self-employed and small businesses that depended 100% on tourism. Many of these companies may not have the financial muscle to be able to reopen and operate again.
The only way to fix the situation is for tourism to return as soon as possible. Tourism generates economic movement quickly, because tourists start spending as soon as they arrive. However, unfortunately, many companies are going to suffer irreparable damage.
If you ask me about the time it will take to recover from the previous situation, it’s impossible to predict. That will depend on the pandemic, on how the vaccination programme evolves and, above all, on whether there are no outbreaks.
Is it safe to receive a lot of tourists, especially with the concern about the Delta strain in the UK and elsewhere?
In the United Kingdom, the level of vaccination is very high and that is a very positive figure. In relation to the Delta strain, I’m not qualified to talk about medical issues, and I do not know the degree of influence of the vaccine on this variant. We will have to wait to see what new data the health authorities provide in this regard.
What about the green digital certificate? Is it going to change things?
Since the pandemic broke out I was among the first to call for what will now be the ‘European Covid Digital Certificate’, and I keep saying that it should have been introduced a long time ago. I have always regretted the absence of a common European regulation on this.
Anything that makes it easier to travel and certify that infections can be controlled is welcome. The EU’s Covid-19 digital certificate, that will be in force as of July 1st, will be an essential instrument for tourist recovery, a measure that will begin in summer and that we hope will begin to consolidate in winter.
On the other hand, security is the most important factor in the travel industry right now. Lanzarote today has become a benchmark for a safe tourist destination model, as we are making a great effort to implement all the necessary measures to generate confidence among our tourists.
At Fitur, the recent international travel fair in Madrid, there was talk of “Premium” tourists. Who are they and where do they come from? Do you think Lanzarote is ready to receive tourists with high purchasing power?
A Premium Tourist is one who has a much higher level of spending and demands that the destination generates unique experiences, to enjoy a holiday in a completely different, exclusive way. In all countries there are segments in which Turismo Lanzarote, through the Lanzarote Premium project, is putting the focus, since these are high-end tourists who are not as concerned with the expense of this type of experience.
Lanzarote is a special place which has all the conditions to generate personalized and unique experiences where this type of exclusive tourists are willing to consume them, because the value that it generates is not important.
At Fitur there was also news of flights from North America. This idea has not been very successful in the past, so what has changed?
In the US, the type of journey, traveller and aeroplane have all changed. The planes are completely different, not so big, because they are made with materials of the latest technology and are much lighter, with greater engine power and lower consumption – this means they have greater range and it will be feasible to charter this type of aircraft from Miami or New York to Lanzarote.
Non-resident British people can no longer stay more than 90 days out of 180 in Spain, which is a big problem for the “swallows” (those who spend long winter stays here), and which are an important element for Lanzarote. So far the Spanish Government has not ruled on this issue. Are tourism professionals in Lanzarote and the Canary Islands aware of the matter? Can you do something about it?
Frankly, I don’t see it as a problem because the British tourist travels two or three times a year to the island, so instead of being here for longer periods, they divide it into several stays, and I think they will go back and forth more frequently. British tourists are in love with the island, and are looking forward to returning as soon as the restrictions are lifted. We hold work meetings with the main operators and airlines practically every day, and they confirm this to us.
In England, Greece and Turkey have run large advertising campaigns to attract tourism back. What is Lanzarote and the Canary Islands doing?
Lanzarote’s tourism campaigns are carried out in a very studied and professional way, and are logically oriented to the situation in time. Throughout the pandemic, we have been very active in digital marketing, networks, online content, blogs, etc.
Co-marketing agreements with airlines were obviously postponed during the pandemic, because if the airlines are not in the air, they can’t promote or incentivize the use of their aircraft. We’re currently designing campaigns for the summer with Ryanair, Vueling and Iberia Express, as well as with French operators. We’ve also been active at travel fairs – this week at B-Travel in Barcelona, for example.
Turkey and Greece started to advertise when they had better infection rates and vaccination numbers than us. It must be borne in mind that Lanzarote is always a preferred destination for many clients. As a result, we are interested in advertising progressively according to the capacity of the island, and seeking a tourist model away from overcrowding, that places value on the unmatched attributes that we have here.
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