Reaching A Limit: When Enough is Enough.

It can be said that the last thing that any given individual choosing to go on a relaxing, stress-free vacation to a paradisiacal island group wants to think about is the fact that their presence there is largely contributing to the death of said island. This is not an uncommon or unheard of occurrence concerning islands, with locals of Hawaii having spoken out about their struggles for many years. Now, the time has come for the Canary Islands to make themselves heard. Although it’s a harsh reality check, it cannot be denied, and inhabitants of the famous Spanish islands have reportedly had enough of the substantial amount of tourism that is wrecking their beautiful home.

This Saturday, 20th of April, protests will be held throughout all the islands under the notice of “Canarias tiene un límite” or “The Canary Islands have a limit”. It is expected that more than 70.000 people will join and communicate their discontent only in the Island of Tenerife alone. These protesters do not stand alone, being supported by many environmental groups such as Greenpeace or WWF. Some members have even begun what is now a week-long hunger strike to demonstrate their resolution, specifically against the development of two brand new hotels in Tenerife. When reading all of this, one may ask themselves: “What has exactly has lead to all of this outrage? Why can’t people just enjoy their vacation like in the good old days?”.

It is true that tourism accounts for around 35% of the archipelago’s GDP, with an impressive 13.9 million people having visited the islands in the last year alone. But it is perhaps time to pay attention to the locals. The proliferation of apartments under companies like Airbnb or Booking are causing the housing prices to be completely unaffordable for most natives. They testify that the industry has gotten so large that many local residents, who earn a regular salary for a spanish resident, are being forced to sleep in their cars or even in caves due to the huge increase in rental prices. This is only exacerbated by the ever-rising cost of living, also due to the immense quantity of tourists. A shocking 33.8% of people in the Canary Islands are at risk of poverty, one of the largest numbers to be found in Spain. The GDP matters little if people cannot even live in proper conditions in their own home land.

A water emergency has been declared in Tenerife, with many struggling for access to due to a dry winter, and even in this situation the regional government keeps pushing for the same touristic model, which is simply not sustainable with the current situation. While the government opens more and more vacational complexes, the biodiversity and environment of the islands slowly worsens, with no one to care for it. The people of the Canary Islands are, as a norm, not protesting against the individuals coming on vacation, but against the industry as a whole that is destroying their quality of life and inhibiting the regional government from focusing on the environmental crisis also developing within these islands. 

Despite all of these startling accounts, the regional tourism chief of the Canary Islands has still peititoned british tourists to not cancel their holidays or stop the tourism, reminding them that they are very much welcome despite all of these local complaints and protests. This shows a clear dissonance between the interests of the governing forces and the population of the archipielago, with both parties not looking willing to give it up anytime soon.

This weekend will certainly be an essential one for the future of the Canary Islands, with the possibility of the regional government finally looking within its territory and listening to its own population on the line. In the meantime, the protests might serve the momentary purpose of disenchating some tourists and discouraging to visit in these unstable times.

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