LA PALMA – During the past long weekend, hordes of Spanish volcano tourists flocked to the Canary Island of La Palma to see the volcano with their own eyes. The island government had even deployed extra shuttle services between the capital, La Palma, and the most visited vantage point.
Eight buses took tourists from the airport to the mirador of the Iglesia de Tajuya (El Paso) every half hour. However, due to the enormous crowds, the waiting time for a shuttle bus was more than an hour. Therefore, a number of tourists drove and walked the last part on a road covered with a thick layer of ash.
However, there was not much to see from the mirador, as a rain of ash turned the sky dark gray and severely hampered the view of the volcano on Saturday. For most volcano tourists, the choice to come to La Palma has been an unusual one. For some, the sensation of the exceptional natural phenomenon that may not occur again attracts them. But also, the realisation that so many people are suffering from the same natural phenomenon gnaws at their conscience. The lava flow has already affected more than 911 acres of the island and destroyed more than 2,183 homes and buildings. That realisation is noticeable in the silence that prevails on the packed mirador with volcano tourists.
However, the island itself also stimulates this volcanic tourism. Technical director Miguel Ángel Morcuende of the Plan de Emergencias Volcánicas de Canarias said at a press conference last Saturday that the arrival of so many people shows that the conditions are safe on the island, as he has always said. He estimates around 10,000 people have come to La Palma to witness the natural spectacle.
Not a spectacle
That is not appreciated by everyone in the affected area. Fifty-year-old Carmen Justiniana from Los Llanos de Aridane expresses her disgust at Morcuende’s attitude. Her brother and several friends lost their home to the lava. “People talk about a spectacle, but for us, it isn’t. The tourists do not spend the money where it is most needed. Los Llanos is empty, nobody comes here. The arrival of all those tourists makes it difficult for residents who have become homeless to find housing to rent. Rental housing has also become significantly more expensive since the volcanic eruption,” says an indignant Justiniana.
Hotels are full
The hotels on La Palma that can be open despite the continuous rain of ash are fully booked. Hotel employee Alejandro Herrera says that all rooms are occupied. However, 85% of the rooms have been made available for the people who have been evacuated from their homes. The other rooms are reserved by tourists. The same goes for all other available accommodations in the area. According to coordinator Sergio Pérez of the tourist apartments on La Palma, the demand is currently many times greater than the supply. According to Pérez, anyone who still wants to visit La Palma should count on not being able to come here soon.