2023 was a big, big year for Lanzarote – the first one since 2019 that would see the island fully free from pandemic measures and travel restrictions. We take a look at some of the main stories from the year, and the issues that affect the island.
And it lived up to expectations, with unprecedented tourism figures and more than enough of the heat and sunshine that brings those tourists here. Those issues also brought challenges, as the island suffered water cuts, transport problems and an increasingly acute housing crisis.
We take a look at some of the main stories from the year, and the issues that affect the island.
JANUARY: ABSENT FRIENDS
Lanzarote was shocked by the death of three wellknown locals in the New Year.
Charlie Chapman, a legendary force among Lanzarote’s bar and live music scene, passed away, leaving behind an island that he changed completely in his 35 years on the island.
Rosemary McManus, the much-loved rep at Sands Beach Hotel, also left us in the New Year and remains sorely missed by friends and family.
Finally, Kiki Kirk, the Danish businesswoman whose orphanage in Nepal ensures that her legacy will live far beyond the shores of the island, died peacefully at her home on the island.
An eventful month weatherwise brought heavy rains to Lanzarote, as well as a heavy calima.
However, the most notable climate event was a hailstorm that covered La Geria and Timanfaya in a white blanket resembling snow. On the same day, a small tornado was filmed in Tahiche.
Lanzarote celebrated its first full carnival programme for four years, after years during which large gatherings had been forbidden by Covid restrictions.
The parades were as glorious and colourful as they have always been, and Puerto del Carmen’s annual St. Patrick Day celebrations were also a huge success.
April saw the full recovery of tourism on Lanzarote, with arrivals at the airport exceeding those in the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.
The return of tourists also brought new challenges, as an inadequate public transport system creaked under the pressure, and the island’s tourist centres saw long queues and traffic jams.
May brought local and national elections, and an island decorated with posters and political publicity.
Although the Socialist party performed well, pacts between the Canarian Coalition and the Popular Party brought an end to their four-year rule in the Cabildo and the Canarian Government. Lanzarote now has new Mayors in Teguise and Arrecife, and a new Cabildo president in Oswaldo Betancort.
More than four years after the shocking killing of Romina Celeste in 2018, Raúl Diaz was finally convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Diaz was also convicted of habitual abuse, gender violence, profanation of a corpse and faking a crime. Absence of evidence and his refusal to provide details of his wife’s killing meant that a murder charge could not be brought.
A scorching summer caused huge forest fires on Tenerife and La Palma, leading to the evacuation of thousands of local residents. Lanzarote firemen rushed to La Palma to assist in tackling the blaze.
The intense heat would continue until late autumn, making this the hottest year ever recorded on Lanzarote, and leading to water shortages throughout the island.
Kennedy Denby from Costa Teguise became the fastest woman swimmer in Spain at the 400m freestyle event in the national championship at Malaga.
It’s an achievement that marked a brilliant year for British women athletes on the island, with Lydia Dant winning her second Ironman race in a row in May.
A surprisingly good wine harvest was welcome news for a sector that had been running on fumes since springtime, as existing stocks sold out.
Despite the heat, rain had fallen at just the right time for the island’s wine crop, which was the fourth-largest since records began. 3.2 million kilos of grapes were harvested, and the 2023 vintage will be in your shops as you read this.
The discovery of five skeletons near Papagayo confirmed the San Marcial de Rubicón archeological site as one of the most important on the Canaries.
The skeletons of three adults and two children could date from the 15th century and may be evidence of the first ever contact between European settlers and the native population on the Canaries.
Steep increases in entry fees to Lanzarote’s tourist attractions were announced, with a €8 rise from €12 to €20 at Timanfaya being the highest.
Residents will still enjoy considerable discounts, but the simple reason for the price rises is to raise more money. The tourist centres are more popular than ever and have suffered long queues and complaints about overcrowding all year.
The biggest hotel ever built on Lanzarote opened its doors on December 1st. The Barcelo Playa Blanca is a four-star beachfront hotel with 720 rooms, three infinity pools, spa facilities and a conference room.
While the island has mainly focussed on updating and renovating existing hotels in recent years, this is the first major new build for several years.
THE BIG ISSUES
In March, an English-language Canarian newspaper claimed falsely that Lanzarote wanted “less British tourists”. As a result, the island suffered negative press coverage in many UK newspapers.
The controversy arose after Cabildo President Dolores Corujo reiterated the island’s policy of diversifying tourist markets to attract different nationalities, and to focus on “quality tourism”.
However, the fuss appeared to have no effect on the popularity of the island, which is set to break all records for tourism this year. And British tourists account for more of the island’s market than ever before – almost 57% of all overseas arrivals.
2023 was the hottest year in recorded history, and Lanzarote was no exception. The island sweltered in heatwaves time and time again, with figures soaring above 30°C even in October.
While tourists couldn’t be happier, there’s also an increasingly uneasy awareness of what climate change could mean for the island in the longer term, with huge pressure on the water system.
The island’s housing crisis is getting worse, with house prices still high and rents for the few flats that are available soaring. The situation is now affecting local businesses and public services, who cannot attract staff as there is nowhere for them to live.
Successive Canarian Governments have failed to provide affordable social housing and plans to limit holiday rentals remain controversial. Currently, no practical solutions are being offered to the problem.
Lanzarote is still an island where the car is king, with more vehicles on the road than ever – more than one for every adult living on the island.
New busses have failed to meet demand, and local authorities still appear to be more committed to road-building than reducing traffic.
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