Massive protests denounce overtourism in Canary Islands

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Spain’s Canary Islands on Saturday, demanding changes to the mass tourism model they say is overwhelming the Atlantic islands.

Demonstrators rallying under the slogan “The Canary Islands have their limits” began their protest at noon (1pm Japan time), with flag-waving crowds on all seven islands of the archipelago. They packed the streets of major cities.

An estimated 57,000 people took part in the protests, according to Spanish media reports, citing representatives of the islands’ central government.

They shouted, whistled and waved a sea of ​​placards and banners with slogans such as “The Canary Islands are not for sale!” Some said to “pause tourism,” while others simply said, “Respect your homeland.”

The protest was called by around 20 social and environmental groups who say tourist overcrowding harms local residents and perpetuates an economic model that destroys the environment.

They want authorities to limit the number of visitors, and have proposed an environmental tax to protect the environment, a moratorium on tourism and a crackdown on property sales to non-residents.

“We are not against tourism,” one female demonstrator, Rosario Correo, told Spanish public television TVE.

“We are calling for a change in this model that allows for unrestricted growth in tourism.”

Last year, 16 million people visited the Canary Islands, more than seven times the population of around 2.2 million, but the group claims this is unsustainable given the islands’ limited resources. .

– “Invasion” –

“We are tired of overcrowding, low wages, no homes, and our land being bought by foreigners who have the money to buy our grandparents’ land that we cannot afford.” and 59 years old. Nieves Rodríguez Rivera, a senior teacher, told AFPTV.

And Antonio Samuel Díaz Garcia, a 22-year-old student, said the constant influx of tourists is driving up rents and exacerbating the housing crisis.

“Villas are encroaching on our villages, rents are rising, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for young people like us to leave our homes,” he told AFPTV.

“We also see tourism destroying biodiversity here.”

Large numbers of demonstrators held parallel rallies in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​public television reported.

Anti-tourism protests have intensified in recent months across Spain, the world’s second-most visited country, as authorities seek to balance the interests of local residents and a lucrative sector that accounts for 12.8% of Spain’s economy.

These islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa, are known for their volcanic landscapes and year-round sunshine, and attract millions of tourists each year, with four out of 10 islanders The tourism industry covers 36% of the islands. GDP.

Even before the pandemic devastated the global travel industry in 2020, protests against overtourism were already on the rise in Spain, particularly in Barcelona.

After travel restrictions were lifted, Spain saw a surge in tourism, welcoming a record 85.1 million tourists last year.

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