SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE – The tourism industry in the Canary Islands is facing a growing alarm as a video featuring individuals displaying anti-tourism messages has gained traction on social media. This development has sparked worries about the rising sentiment of hostility towards tourists in the region.
A week before the elections, a dozen social and environmental groups took to the streets in Arona (Tenerife) to voice their demands for a moratorium, an ecotax, and an amended residential law. “We want ecotax, go home!” was shouted. The proposed measures aim to curb the construction of mass tourism projects that have proliferated across the islands. The event was aptly named ‘Canary Islands are no longer paradise. For a change of model’, drawing attention to their cause.
The groups aimed to shed light on the dire situation plaguing the islands. They highlighted concerns such as extensive coastal pollution, rampant traffic congestion, destruction and encroachment on coastal areas, and the relentless construction of new hotels and luxury developments. According to them, this dire situation of collapse and environmental degradation is poised to worsen if left unchecked.
Push for Moratorium and Sustainable Tourism Practices
In addition to their demands, the groups called for a moratorium on hotel occupancy and a prohibition on the construction of more tourist accommodations in hotels, apartments, and other tourism infrastructure. They cited the detrimental impact of mass tourism, claiming that it has already destroyed numerous natural areas within the archipelago and caused harm to others due to the unsustainable pressure imposed by the 13 million tourists who visit the islands annually. They further emphasised the chronic stress suffered by the cetacean population south of Tenerife, as a result of the large crowds in the area.
Concerns for the Tourism Sector and Proposed Solutions
Tenerife’s association of entrepreneurs, the CEOE, expressed deep concerns regarding the potential consequences of this rising anti-tourism sentiment on the tourism industry and employment in the Canary Islands. Doris Borrego, the president of the Association of Holiday Rentals (Ascav), echoed these concerns.
To address the situation, proposals have been made to introduce an eco-tax applicable to all tourists visiting the islands. The funds generated from this tax would be exclusively allocated to the protection, conservation, and restoration of the archipelago’s natural spaces.
Understanding the Causes and Seeking Collaboration
According to the Association of entrepreneurs, various groups within Canarian society reject tourism and advocate for temporary halts, eco-taxes, and stricter regulations for tourists. The CEOE offers its assistance to public institutions and other groups working together towards a sustainable tourism sector, to reduce hostility towards visitors.
Economic Impact and Criticism of Politicians
The chairman of Ascav, highlighting the dangers posed by the surge in tourist hatred, warned that it endangers the Canary Islands’ primary economic engine. Borrego recalled that the rejection of tourists initially emerged from criticism of vacation rentals but has since spread to encompass tourism in general. She particularly called out inflammatory statements made by a councilwoman from the island government of Lanzarote against British tourism, while criticising the overall rhetoric employed by certain politicians.
A Plea for Responsibility and Care
Ascav emphasised the significance of assuming responsibility and exercising caution in addressing the issue at hand. The well-being and livelihoods of people are at stake, underscoring the importance of approaching the matter with care and consideration.