22/03/2012 Canary Islands (KMC) - British Ambassador to Spain, Giles Paxman, paid a visit to Gran Canaria on Wednesday 21st of March to formally introduce Maria Leng as British Consul for the Canary Islands.
He made a number of interesting comments on topics including Repsol’s controversial oil drilling plans, the changing tourism trends here and British integration in the Canaries.
The British tourism market provides the largest source of tourists to these islands; last year alone 3.5 million British tourists visited the Canaries.
The Ambassador said he did not believe that the oil exploration 60km off the coast of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura would hinder the arrival of British tourists:
“I do not think that the possibility or the prospect of oil exploration 60km from the islands affects the interests of British tourists because there are so many advantages to the Canary Islands. The islands offer great weather, food, leisure and culture and are an exotic location. The British tourist is sensitive to many things, but I do not think the environment is a determining factor in the decisions of British tourists.
Paxman described how the profile of the British tourist has changed. More people who come here on holiday now come as independent tourists rather than with tour operators.
“Today less than 50% of tourists come to the Canary Islands with a British tour operator. This represents a challenge for the consulate because the tour operator worked as an intermediary for consular services. Today this intermediate does not exist and so we have had to change the patterns of our consular service to focus more on victims.”
The Ambassador encouraged British residents living in the Canaries to integrate into their Spanish communities and said the consulate is doing everything they can to assist in this integration.
“Some Britons have been resident in Spain for decades and have carefully integrated into the communities where they live. Others arrived more recently and live in neighbourhoods where they find it more difficult to integrate with Canarian life. We are working hard to encourage the integration of Britons living here because we think it is important for them. Being isolated from the community puts people in a vulnerable situation when something happens. We encourage residents to register to vote, and to learn Spanish, although we recognise this is difficult for some people, especially seniors.”
His words on integration echo those said by Maria Leng in an interview with Lanzarote37°. Maria said the most important thing for British residents in Spain was to try and integrate as fully as they can into their Spanish community.
For more information visit the website of the British Embassy