Canary Islands protestors demonstrate against mass tourism

Thousands of people in the Canary Islands have rallied in protest against the impact of mass tourism.

They want limits on tourist numbers and curbs on what they describe as uncontrolled development harmful for the environment and residents.

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) across the Canary Islands archipelago.

Protests were staged in Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, other parts of the archipelago and Spanish cities, organised by about two dozen environmental organisations ahead of the peak summer holiday season.

They want local authorities to temporarily limit visitor numbers to reduce pressure on the islands’ environment, infrastructure and housing stock, and put curbs on property purchases by foreigners.

They stress they are not against the tourism industry, which makes up 35% of the Canaries’ economy.

The tourism industry also accounts for 40% of the archipelago’s jobs.

Almost 14 million foreign tourists visited the seven main islands last year, about six times more than the islands’ population of 2.2 million, and up 13% from 2022.

The biggest markets for the islands are the UK and Germany, although they are also a popular destination for mainland Spaniards.

Canary Islands tourism minister Jessica de León told The Telegraph ahead of the protests that the archipelago was still very much open for business.

“It is still safe to visit the Canary Islands, and we are delighted to welcome you,” she said.

She said she understood protesters’ frustrations, particularly concerning the issue of housing, but that it was “unfair to blame tourism”.

Canary Islands’ president Fernando Clavijo was reported as saying that some of the opinions being expressed by activists “smack of tourist-phobia”.

He said: “People who come here to visit and spend their money must not be criticised or insulted. We are playing with our main source of income.”

But Nestor Marrero, secretary of a Tenerife ecology group called ATAN, reportedly said: “The number of tourists should be reduced. We should aim for higher-quality visitors, not people in all-included resorts who don’t leave the hotel or interact with locals and our culture in any way.” 

He warned that tourists were using too much water, which was overwhelming local infrastructure and leading to “a million litres of untreated sewage ending up in the sea around the Canaries every day”.

Share article

View Comments

Jacobs Media is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.