Compared to much of mainland Spains coastline, tourism arrived late on Lanzarote. And many observers believe this is one of the main reasons why tourism has been so well controlled here. Mistakes made on Spains costas have generally been successfully, and happily, avoided on Lanzarote. Today tourism represents the major pillar of Lanzarotes economy, having overtaken fishing and agriculture, and providing jobs for thousands of islanders, Spaniards and foreigners who choose to come to Lanzarote for work.

In 1970 a mere 25,000 tourists -more than 10,000 of them Spanish nationals - came to Lanzarote. Less than 2,500 Britons came to Lanzarote in that year when tourism figures were first produced. By 1988 the total figure had risen to almost 750,000, 280,000 of them coming from the British Isles.

Tourism department officials say this meteoric rise in the islands popularity is expected to continue with Britons taking the lions share., Around 37.5 per cent of the total number of visitors to Lanzarote in 1988 were Britons. Germans, with 182,000, comprised 24 per cent of the total.

More than 90,000 Norwegians chose Lanzarote for their 1988 holiday, compared with 32,000 Spaniards. Meanwhile, Swedes and Danes, taken together, totalled more than 66,000 -- less than nine per cent of the total.

One puzzling statistic, however, pertains to the French. Although nearly 2,000 French visitors came to the island in 1970, by 1986 the figure had dropped to little over 500. But the French are now returning to Lanzarote and the boom goes on -- particularly with Britons. Throughout the 1970s there was a small but steady rise in the number of UK citizens coming to Lanzarote, although the figures were tiny in comparison to the number flocking to mainland Spain.

But by 1980, nearly 34,000 UK citizens had chosen Lanzarote for a holiday. And in the first half of the 1980s, Britons were increasingly attracted by Lanzarotes many charms, not least of which is its marvellous year--round climate.

A report produced by the islands tourism department suggests that in the next few years, more and more visitors will be coming to Lanzarote. And future years will see even further growth, "particularly at the top end of the market", says the report, as other parts of the island are developed and more visitors realise the marvellous range of facilities offered by Lanzarote as a holiday option.

Clearly, the islands almost idyllic climate represents one of the major reasons for holidaying on Lanzarote.

But its more than just the weather which beckons visitors back year after year. Many Britons and Europeans own holiday homes or timeshare here. But theres still something more, something special and characteristically Lanzaroteno, that keeps drawing them back. Theres that typical sense of mystery and poetry about the sunsets on Lanzarote, the "purple light", referred to by Virgil, vivid colours of clouds in the diurnal skies and the amazing clarity of the night--time sky, filled with a universe of stars.

Theres the mixture of Spain in Africa, and the miracle of plants and crops growing from a desert landscape. Theres the pervading presence of the sea, whether it be gently lapping on a sun--drenched beach or furiously smashing into the cliffs of Los Hervideros.

And theres the timeless, sleepiness of the small inland villages with names like Soo, Ye, Tao and many others Lanzarote villages, still locked in time, which seem to have been awaiting your arrival.