Jet2 CEO demands explanation from Lanzarote president for ‘inflammatory’ call for fewer Brits and more ‘high quality’ tourists

 Lanzarote is a popular holiday destination for Britons in the Canary Islands  (Shutterstock / Amy Corti)
Lanzarote is a popular holiday destination for Britons in the Canary Islands (Shutterstock / Amy Corti)

The head of British airline Jet2 has hit back at “inflammatory” and “offensive” comments made by Lanzarote’s president about British tourists.

Dolores Corujo told trade conferences last week that the Canary island, a popular holiday destination for Britons off the coast of West Africa, wanted to attract more “high quality” tourists from mainland Europe, such as from Germany, the Netherlands and France, so it didn’t have to depend on British travellers.

More than 50 per cent of visitors to the island currently come from the UK, and overcrowding is an existential threat to the volcanic island, she added.

The Socialist party head of Lanzarote’s local government said: “It’s essential to work on the diversification of the [tourism] sector and the growth of markets like the German market”.

Ms Corujo said the government wanted to draw holidaymakers who spend more money and move the Atlantic Ocean island away from “mass tourism”.

The local opposition party has condemned the plans, claiming it would drive up prices for locals and devastate the local economy.

Jet2 chief executive Steve Heapy said he wrote a letter to Ms Corujo to clear up just how much she “wants to reduce British tourism”.

He told Travel Weekly: “We heard about what the minister had said at ITB in Berlin last week, so on Monday, I took the initiative and wrote to her, copying in all the hoteliers in Lanzarote.

“As the largest UK tour operator to Lanzarote, I contacted her for clarification over her inflammatory and quite frankly offensive comments about British tourists, to ask her what she means and to what extent she wants to reduce British tourism.

“It’s left the hotelier community asking the same questions.”

In his letter, Mr Heapy said Ms Corujo’s comments could have a detrimental effect on British tourists and asks for clarification over the term “higher quality tourism”.

The Tourist Federation of Lanzarote (FTL) echoed Heapy’s call for clarification, and distanced itself from the comments.

Jet2 is the largest tour operator in the UK and has put 625,000 flight seats on sale to Lanzarote for this summer and next winter, Canarian Weekly reports.

The UK market is by far the largest to the island, with 1.3 million UK visitors in 2019 compared to 309,000 from Germany and 115,000 from France, according to Canarian Weekly.

The island, administed by Spain, is known for its volcanic landscape, picturesque beaches and year-round warm weather. Timanfaya National Park, stretching 51 kilometres across Lanzarote, is made up entirely of volcanic soil.

Lanzarote is the latest of several Spanish islands to express concern over large volumes of tourists.

Last month, the government of the Balearic Islands - which includes Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza - announced plans to cap tourist numbers. In 2022, more than 16 million holidaymakers visited the islands, Euronews reports.

Mallorca revealed that it would not allow more than three cruise ships a day to the island’s capital of Palma across 2023 and 2024.