Canary Islands tourism protests: what are they about?

Canary Islands tourism protests: what are they about?

Thousands of protestors demonstrated in Tenerife on Saturday, demanding that the Spanish island temporarily imposes restrictions on tourist arrivals.

With signs that included, "People live here" and "We don't want to see our island die", protesters demanded that the tourism sector, which generates 35 per cent of the Canary Islands archipelago's GDP, be changed.

A little more than two dozen environmental organisations co-ordinated smaller marches around the island group and in other Spanish towns before the peak summer period.

But why are the Canary Islands protesting, how many tourists visit the islands each year, and is Spain due to scrap the 90-day rule?

Why are the Canary Islands protesting?

The protests were in an effort to stop the rise in short-term holiday rentals and hotel building that is driving up housing costs for locals.

According to the organisations, in order to relieve strain on the ecology, infrastructure, and housing stock of the islands, local authorities should temporarily limit the number of visitors and impose restrictions on foreigners buying real estate.

The effect on the locals worries government officials in the islands. As a result of protests from homeowners priced out of the property market, a draft law tightening regulations on short lets is anticipated to be passed this year.The president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, stated on Friday that he was "proud" of the area's reputation as a top travel destination in Spain, but he also noted that additional regulations were necessary as the industry grew.

At a press conference, he said: “We can't keep looking away. Otherwise, hotels will continue to open without any control."

How many tourists visit the Canary Islands each year?

According to government estimates, the 2.2 million-person archipelago saw nearly 14 million foreign visitors in 2023, an increase of 13 per cent over the previous year.

What is the 90-day rule in Canary Islands?

British citizens benefit from visa exemption for up to 90 days in every 180-day period but, if they wish to stay for longer, they face a tricky residency process or have to apply for the golden visa.

The only way to retain the golden visa is to invest more than €500,000 (£432,000) in real estate or certain types of business.

British people who own second homes on the continent are especially unfortunate since they will be unable to fully enjoy their property.

According to The Express, approximately 800,000 to one million British citizens own real estate in Spain, mostly along the southern coast. Only about 370,000 of them are officially recognised as residents, meaning they are free to come and go as they want.

Will Spain scrap the 90-day rule for UK citizens?

In 2023, Spain (including the Canary Islands) were in talks to relax the 90-day rule for UK citizens.

Héctor Gómez, Spain's acting minister of industry, trade, and tourism, has hinted that Madrid may consider lowering the 90-day ban for second-home owners back in December.

There is still no further development on the case.

France was also looking into scrapping the 90-day rule for second homeowners in their country, but they were rejected by the French court in January for being “unconstitutional”.