Thousands take to streets in Tenerife to protest against mass tourism

Demonstrators call for temporary limit on tourist arrivals to stem boom in short-term holiday rentals and hotel construction that is driving up housing costs for locals

Tara Cobham
Saturday 20 April 2024 21:26 BST
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Tenerife residents protest 'unsustainable' tourism in Canary Islands

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Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Spain's Canary Islands to protest against mass tourism.

Demonstrators were on Saturday calling for Tenerife 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", campaigners said changes must be made to the tourism industry that accounts for 35 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the Canary Islands archipelago.

People march during a mass demonstration against tourism, which affects the local population with inaccessible housing among other things in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, on Saturday
People march during a mass demonstration against tourism, which affects the local population with inaccessible housing among other things in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, on Saturday (AP)

"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 said 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.

A man with the Canary Island flag painted on his face protests during a march against tourism in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, on Saturday
A man with the Canary Island flag painted on his face protests during a march against tourism in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, on Saturday (AP)

"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," said Antonio Bullon, one of the protest leaders.

The archipelago of 2.2 million people was visited by nearly 14 million foreign tourists in 2023, up 13 per cent 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.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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