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Thousands of people in Canary Islands take to streets calling for limit to tourist numbers | World News

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Thousands of people have taken to the streets on the Canary Islands to protest against tourism and say the region is “not for sale”.

The residents are calling for the Spanish group of islands to temporarily limit tourist arrivals in a bid to stem a boom in short-term holiday rentals and hotel construction – which is driving up housing costs for locals.

Tourism accounts for 35% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the Canary Islands, but demonstrators say changes to the industry must be made.

Groups protested in Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and La Palma on Saturday.

Hundreds of protesters against Spain's tourism model in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. Pic: AP
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Protesters in Gran Canaria. Pic: AP

Signs reading “We don’t want to see our island die”, “Stop Hotels” and “Canaries not for sale” were seen as thousands of people took to the streets.

“It’s not a message against the tourist, but against a tourism model that doesn’t benefit this land and needs to be changed,” said one protester in Tenerife’s capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Marches were also held in cities on mainland Spain.

They were organised by two environmental organisations and timed to fall just before the peak summer holiday season.

A man plays a conch in a traditional way during a demonstration for a change in the tourism model in the Canary Islands, in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, April 20, 2024. Pic: Reuters/Borja Suarez
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‘No se vende’ – meaning ‘Not for sale’ – declared one placard. Pic: Reuters

The groups are calling for local authorities to temporarily limit visitor numbers in order to alleviate pressure on the islands’ environment, infrastructure and housing situation. They also hope the proposal will curb property purchases by foreigners.

Antonio Bullon, a protester in Tenerife, said: “The authorities must immediately stop this corrupt and destructive model that depletes the resources and makes the economy more precarious.

“The Canary Islands have limits and people’s patience too.”

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The seven main Canary Islands are home to 2.2 million people and in 2023, nearly 14 million international tourists visited them – up 13% from the previous year.

Authorities are concerned about the impact high volumes of tourists are having on the locals, and a draft law toughening up the rules on short-term lets is expected to be passed this year.

Pic: AP
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Demonstrators in Tenerife. Pic: AP

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The islands’ president said on Friday that he felt “proud” the region is a leading Spanish tourism spot, but acknowledged more controls are needed.

“We can’t keep looking away. Otherwise, hotels will continue to open without any control,” Fernando Clavijo told a news conference.

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