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Tourist Influx In Tenerife Leads To Record Numbers, But Also Sparks Protests  

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Tourism is booming in Tenerife as more than 6.5 million people visited the island in 2023, breaking all previous tourism records.  

And it’s easy to see why! 

Overhead view of a beach in Tenerife

Tenerife boasts year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, and lush green mountains, including the highest mountain in Spain.

It is by far the busiest of the Canary Islands.  

But while tourism brings growth and money it also brings problems. Which is why the tourism influx to Tenerife has sparked protests on the island.  

Here’s what you need to know:

International Tourism Influx 

Of the 6.5 million people who visited Tenerife in 2023, more than 5 million were international arrivals.  

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, but it is still a relatively small place.

Tenerife covers an area of around 786 square miles (2036 sq km) and has a population of less than 950,000.  

Roques de Garcia stone and Teide mountain volcano in the Teide National Park, Tenerife

It’s important to understand the small size of the island to give context to the big impact this skyrocketing tourism influx has had on local communities.  

Protests On The Island  

15 local civic and environmental groups from Tenerife have come together and decided to protest on April 20.

This protest will be the largest demonstration in Tenerife’s history.  

The slogan for the protests is “Canarias tiene un limite. Por un cambio de modelo!”

This translates as the Canaries have a limit. For a change of model!  

Protest in Tenerife, Canary Islands

The protest will begin at midday and will start from Plaza Weyler in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. If you’re on the island that weekend, then it’s worth avoiding the area as a tourist presence might inflame the situation.

The U.S. State Department advises Americans overseas to avoid becoming involved in local protests and demonstrations, and the same rule of thumb should apply here.  

Why Are There Protests In Tenerife? 

One of the main questions to ask of any protest is what do the protesters actually want?

So far, the demands are fairly balanced.  

Protesters are not asking for tourists to ‘go home’ or even for a reduction in tourism numbers.

Rather, they would like the local authorities to reconsider their current growth-focused development model, which is attracting more tourists to the island each year.  

Seaside Village Facing The Atlantic Sea In Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Local authorities in Tenerife are focusing on continuing to grow tourism on the island.  

They have given the green light to the construction of more hotels to the south of the island and are also considering the construction of new tourism towns in the same area.  

On the one hand this is good news as with tourism comes money.

And according to the Tenerife Minister for Tourism, Lope Afonso, increased tourism spending has helped the island to grow economically making it the fastest growing in the Canary Islands.  

Beach Tenerife Spain

But although tourism is bringing much-needed money to Tenerife, this hasn’t trickled down to the most vulnerable local people on the island yet.

33% of people in the Canary Islands are still living below the Spanish poverty line and the islands also have the 2nd lowest wages of any region in Spain.  

Environmental Factors  

As well as the number of tourists arriving on Tenerife the other huge reason for the protests is the environmental impact that such huge volumes of tourists are having.  

Aerial View Of Las Teresitas Beach, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

The protest groups are demanding the introduction of an eco-tax for tourists and that the local government implement systems that will better conserve Tenerife’s natural spaces.

Initiatives to introduce an eco-tax have been proposed on the island before but they have always been rejected.  

There are currently no restrictions on tourist vehicles, quad bikes, and dune buggies driving through the islands’s rural national parks.

There are also no restrictions on visitor numbers to Tenerife’s most iconic attractions, such as Mount Teide.  

Mount el Teide, volcano in the middle of Tenerife Island, Canary Island, Spain

The local authorities cite job creation and wealth creation as the current priority on the island, which is why the island growth model is currently the preferred approach.  

But ironically, overtourism often serves to drive tourists away.  

Tenerife risks being a victim of its own success.  

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