Mass tourism sparks mass protests in Spain’s Canary Islands

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Calls for change: Thousands protest mass tourism in Canary Islands.

SPAIN, April 21: Tens of thousands of residents in Spain’s Canary Islands have taken to the streets to protest against what they perceive as an overwhelming model of mass tourism in the Atlantic archipelago. The demonstrators are calling for stricter limits on tourist numbers and measures to control what they deem as unchecked development detrimental to the environment and local communities.

Despite making up 35% of the Canaries’ economy, the tourism industry has sparked widespread concern among residents. In 2023 alone, the islands welcomed 13.9 million tourists, a staggering figure compared to the archipelago’s population of 2.2 million. Tourism also dominates the job market, employing 40% of the local workforce.

While the UK and Germany remain key tourism markets, the Canary Islands are also popular among mainland Spaniards, drawn by the allure of pristine beaches and year-round sunshine.

Protests erupted across the archipelago over the weekend, with demonstrators in the capital city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife holding signs that read “Tourist – respect my land!” and “Canaries have a limit.” Lydia Morales, a protester, voiced concerns over the long-standing model of mass tourism, which she believes is eroding the islands’ natural beauty and disrupting residents’ lives.

Similar demonstrations unfolded in mainland Spain, underscoring the broader discontent with the current tourism model. Protesters are advocating for a sustainable approach to tourism that addresses environmental concerns, such as water shortages exacerbated by climate change, and alleviates housing and cost pressures.

The socioeconomic impact of mass tourism is also a focal point of the protests, with statistics indicating that 34% of Canary Islanders are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, the second-highest figure in Spain.

In a dramatic display of dissent, activists initiated a hunger strike in Tenerife to denounce what they perceived as the harmful expansion of tourism infrastructure. Demands include halting the construction of a hotel and beach resort in the island’s south and imposing a moratorium on all tourism development projects.

As tensions escalate between residents and policymakers, the protests underscore the urgent need for a more sustainable and community-oriented approach to tourism in the Canary Islands.

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