Home International Thousands protest in Spain’s Canary Islands over mass tourism

Thousands protest in Spain’s Canary Islands over mass tourism

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Thousands of people protested in Tenerife on Saturday, calling for the Spanish island to temporarily limit tourist arrivals to stem a boom in short-term holiday rentals and hotel construction that is driving up housing costs for locals.

A man waves a flag with the colours of the Canary Islands during a demonstration for a change in the tourism model in the Canary Islands, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, April 20, 2024. Picture: Reuters, Borja Suarez

By Borja Suarez

SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Spain – Thousands of people protested in Tenerife on Saturday, calling for the Spanish island to temporarily limit tourist arrivals to stem a boom in short-term holiday rentals and hotel construction that is driving up housing costs for locals.

Holding placards reading “People live here” and “We don’t want to see our island die”, demonstrators said changes must be made to the tourism industry that accounts for 35% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the Canary Islands archipelago.

“It’s not a message against the tourist, but against a tourism model that doesn’t benefit this land and needs to be changed,” one of the protesters told Reuters during the march in Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Smaller marches were held elsewhere in the island group and other Spanish cities, all of them organised by about two dozen environmental organisations ahead of the peak summer holiday season.

The organisations say local authorities should temporarily limit visitor numbers to alleviate pressure on the islands’ environment, infrastructure and housing stock, and put curbs on property purchases by foreigners.

“The authorities must immediately stop this corrupt and destructive model that depletes the resources and makes the economy more precarious. The Canary Islands have limits and people’s patience too,” Antonio Bullon, one of the protest leaders, told Reuters.

The archipelago of 2.2 million people was visited by nearly 14 million foreign tourists in 2023, up 13% from the previous year, according to official data.

Authorities in the islands are concerned about the impact on locals. A draft law expected to pass this year toughening the rules on short lets follows complaints from residents priced out of the housing market.

Canary Islands president Fernando Clavijo said on Friday he felt “proud” that the region was a leading Spanish tourist destination, but acknowledged that more controls were needed as the sector continues to grow.

“We can’t keep looking away. Otherwise, hotels will continue to open without any control,” he told a press conference.

– REUTERS

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