Thousands join protests against mass tourism in the Canaries

Canary Islands mass tourism demonstrations
By Linsey McNeill
22/04/2024
Home » Thousands join protests against mass tourism in the Canaries

Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in Spanish cities in an attempt to curb mass tourism in the Canary Islands.

The largest protest was in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the largest island, but there were also demonstrations in other cities across Spain, including Madrid.

The protestors insist they’re not against tourism, which makes up more than a third of the Canary Islands’ economy, but they want limits on the number of visitors.

However, media coverage of the protests, which started some time ago with smaller demonstrations in the Canaries, has spooked some holidaymakers, with one Tenerife hotelier claiming Brits were ringing ahead to see if it was still safe to visit.

Of the 14 million tourists who visited the Canary Islands last year, 5.6m were British.

While protestors say tourists are still welcome, they want a more sustainable tourism model and more controlled development, taking into consideration water shortages, which are already impacting Spain this year.

They also want the building of two new hotels in the south of Tenerife to be stopped, and a limit on Airbnb-style lets, which they say is pushing up housing costs and squeezing out locals.

Last week, activists in Tenerife began a hunger strike, which they say they’ll keep up until authorities ban construction of the Hotel La Tejita and the Cuna del Alma.

In 2023, there was a one million increase in the number of tourists visiting Tenerife compared to 2019, pre-pandemic, but the tourist board insists tourism isn’t an issue on the island.

In a statement, it said its contribution to the Canary Islands’ economy has risen from 32.9% in 2019 to 35.5%, bringing in ‘record tax revenue’.

During the same period, the tourist board said the percentage of residents at risk of poverty had fallen from 38.3% to 33.8%.

It said: “The Canary Islands is far from the rates of tourist overcrowding of other similar competing destinations in the Mediterranean area and further still from urban destinations that suffer even more from this reality.”

It said that in the past four years, the number of beds in hotels and apartments has fallen in the Canary Islands by 8.1%, from 395,000 to 365,000. In Tenerife alone there has been a 5% reduction, it said.

“The decline in the category of apartments has been particularly marked, with a 26% reduction in the number of beds offered. This reduction is mainly due to the refurbishment and modernisation processes of our accommodation offer, in which the conversion of apartment complexes into hotels and, in general, quality over volume, have taken precedence,” it added.

“At present, the sector is geared towards establishments, preferably hotel establishments, of a higher category, which implies more space, more common services and a lower volume.”

It agreed that, in contrast to the fall in hotel beds and apartments, the number of holiday homes offered on digital platforms (like Airbnb) rose from 62,000 in 2019 to 225,000 last year.

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