Tens of thousands protest against Canary Islands’ ‘unsustainable’ tourism model

World 09:52 21.04.2024

Tens of thousands of people are protesting across the Canary Islands to call for an urgent rethink of the Spanish archipelago’s tourism strategy and a freeze on visitor numbers, arguing that the decades-old model has made life unaffordable and environmentally unsustainable for residents.

The protests, which are taking place under the banner “Canarias tiene un límite” – The Canaries have a limit – are backed by environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF, Ecologists in Action, Friends of the Earth and SEO/Birdlife.

“We’ve reached the point where the balance between the use of resources and the welfare of the population here has broken down, especially over the past year,” said Víctor Martín, a spokesperson for the collective Canarias se Agota – The Canaries Have Had Enough – which helped to coordinate protests on Saturday across the eight islands.

Eleven members of Canarias se Agota have already been on hunger strike for a week to protest against the construction of two large luxury developments in southern Tenerife, which they describe as illegal and totally unnecessary.

Police said 20,000 people had turned out for the demonstrations, but organisers put the figure closer to 50,000, Spain’s TVE public television said.

“We are not against tourism,” Rosario Correo, one of the protesters, told TVE. “We’re asking that they change this model that allows for unlimited growth of tourism.”

Protesters also gathered in Madrid and Barcelona to show their support for the rallies in the Canary Islands, public television said.

Last year, 13.9 million people visited the islands, which have a population of 2.2 million. Tourism accounts for about 35% of the archipelago’s GDP – bringing in €16.9bn in 2022 alone – but local people say the industry is stressing natural resources and pricing them out of the rental market.

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