Tens of Thousands Protest Mass Tourism in Spain's Canary Islands

Thousands protest mass tourism in Spain's Canary Islands, demanding limits on visitor numbers and development to protect the environment and local well-being.

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Mahnoor Jehangir
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Tens of Thousands Protest Mass Tourism in Spain's Canary Islands

Tens of Thousands Protest Mass Tourism in Spain's Canary Islands

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Spain's Canary Islands on Saturday to protest against the archipelago's model of mass tourism. The demonstrators, estimated at 57,000 across the seven islands, demanded limits on tourist numbers and development to protect the environment and the well-being of local residents.

The Canary Islands received 13.9 million tourists in 2023, which is about six times more than the islands' population of 2.2 million. Protesters held signs reading 'Tourist, respect my land!' and 'The Canary Islands have a limit,' saying the constant stream of visitors is overwhelming the archipelago's limited resources.

Residents are frustrated with soaring costs and the strain on housing caused by the surging tourism. In 2023, 34% of Canary Islanders were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, the second-highest figure in Spain. The protesters want authorities to introduce an eco-tax, impose a moratorium on tourism, and clamp down on the sale of properties to non-residents.

Why this matters: The protests in the Canary Islands highlight the growing backlash against mass tourism in popular destinations around the world. As tourism rebounds from the pandemic, many communities are confronting the challenge of balancing the economic benefits of tourism with its negative impacts on the environment, housing, and quality of life for residents.

The regional government is preparing a law to regulate vacation homes, but the protests have caused unease in the tourism sector, which accounts for 35% of the Canaries' economy and 40% of the archipelago's jobs. Activists have also begun a hunger strike on Tenerife, demanding a halt to the construction of a hotel and a beach resort, as well as a pause on all tourism development projects.

Similar protests in support of the Canary Islands took place in Madrid and Barcelona. The demonstrations mark a significant turning point as the archipelago confronts the challenges of mass tourism. "The Canary Islands are not up for sale!" read one protester's placard, encapsulating the growing sentiment among residents that unchecked tourism growth is no longer sustainable for their islands.

Key Takeaways

  • 57,000 Canary Islanders protested against mass tourism, demanding limits.
  • Canaries received 13.9M tourists in 2023, 6x the local population of 2.2M.
  • Residents face soaring costs, housing strain, and 34% at risk of poverty.
  • Protesters want eco-tax, moratorium on tourism, and curbs on non-resident property sales.
  • Protests mark a turning point as Canaries confront unsustainable tourism growth.