Thousands are protesting against mass tourism in the Canary Islands in Spain

SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Spain – Thousands of people protested in Tenerife on Saturday, calling on the Spanish island to temporarily limit tourist arrivals to stem a boom in short-term holiday rentals and hotel construction that is driving up housing costs for locals.

Holding signs reading “People live here” and “We don’t want to see our island die”, protesters said changes must be made to the tourism sector, which is responsible for 35% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). the archipelago of the Canary Islands.

“It is not a message against the tourist, but against a tourism model that does not benefit this country and must be changed,” one of the demonstrators told Reuters during the march in Tenerife’s capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Smaller marches were held elsewhere on the archipelago and in other Spanish cities, all organized by around 20 environmental organizations ahead of the peak summer holiday season.

The organizations say local authorities should temporarily limit visitor numbers to ease pressure on the island’s environment, infrastructure and housing stock, and restrict real estate purchases by foreigners.

“The authorities must immediately put an end to this corrupt and destructive model that is depleting resources and making the economy more insecure. The Canary Islands also have borders and the patience of the people,” Antonio Bullon, one of the protest leaders, told Reuters.

The archipelago of 2.2 million inhabitants was visited by almost 14 million foreign tourists in 2023, a 13% increase from the previous year, according to official data.

The authorities on the islands are concerned about the consequences for the local population.

A bill expected to be passed this year that will tighten rules on short-term rentals follows complaints from residents who have been priced out of the housing market.

Canary Islands President Fernando Clavijo said on Friday he was “proud” that the region is a leading Spanish tourist destination, but acknowledged that more controls are needed as the sector continues to grow.

“We cannot continue to look away. Otherwise, hotels will continue to open without any control,” he said at a news conference.