Lanzarote and Tenerife send plea to UK tourists ahead of mass holiday cancellations

The Canary Islands have pleaded with Britons to visit amid fears of mass holiday cancellations after anti-tourist protests. Regional tourism chief Jessica de León insists that tourists are still welcome on the Islands ahead of planned protests today.

Thousands of people will join protests across the Canary islands on Saturday to call for an urgent rethink of the Spanish archipelago’s tourism industry. "It is still safe to visit the Canary Islands, and we are delighted to welcome you," she told The Telegraph.

She added that she understands the frustration, but it was "unfair to blame tourism". Fernando Clavijo, the Canary Islands president echoed León saying that some activists "smack of tourist-phobia".

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"People who come here to visit and spend their money must not be criticised or insulted. We are playing with our main source of income," Clavijo said. Gabriel González, a councillor for the hard-Left Podemos party in Tenerife’s resort town of Adeje, hit back: "We have the feeling that we are not living off tourism; it is tourism that is living off us."

Néstor Marrero, secretary of a Tenerife ecology group called ATAN added: "The number of tourists should be reduced. We should aim for higher-quality visitors, not people in all-included resorts who don’t leave the hotel or interact with locals and our culture in any way."

Last year, 13.9 million people visited the islands, which have a population of 2.2 million. Figures from Spain’s National Statistics Institute show that 33.8 per cent of people in the Canaries are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, the highest proportion for any region except Andalucía.

“All the actions this government has taken have been based on a revision of this model,” Clavijo told reporters this week. “The Canaries tourist model has been a successful one, but obviously, as with anything, there are things that could be perfected.”