Thursday, July 18, 2024

Spain ‘locals don’t want an end to tourism’ – the real reason behind protests

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Thousands of people have taken to the streets in protests against over-tourism in Spain‘s Canary Islands in recent months, which may have sparked “anxiety” for some British tourists. However, Alison Johnson, owner of Moving to Spain, has urged Britons not to be put off and has explained that the protests do not seek to cut holidaymakers off from the islands.

For decades, Spain has been a much-loved destination for Britons, and in 2023, the number of global tourists visiting Spain and its associated islands increased to a record-breaking 85 million. However, this has sparked concerns for some locals, which is one of the factors behind the protection.

“Over recent weeks, protests have taken place across the likes of Majorca, Lanzarote and Tenerife, with locals demanding that the government take action and rethink the tourism model,” said Alison.

“In our experience, locals don’t want an end to tourism – they want a balance that respects their right to live in the places we love to visit.”

Carme Reines, who is part of a collective which organised a protest in Palma de Mallorca told Reuters that the protests aren’t aimed at stopping all tourism, but are for more controls to protect Spanish citizens. She said: “We want the authorities to stop people who have not lived here more than five years from buying properties and to put more controls on holiday accommodation.”

Similarly, Javier Carbonell, a real estate agent, said over half of rental properties were used for holiday rents and were not affordable for locals.

“We want less mass tourism and more sustainable tourism,” Carbonell said.

Tourism generates 45 percent of the Balearic Islands’ gross domestic product, according to data from Exceltur, an industry organisation, and is a vital lifeline for the region. In 2023, local news outlet Canarian Weekly reported that tourism generated €22 billion.

“It was reported earlier this week that Magaluf, known for its lively and vibrant nightlife, was ‘half empty’ despite being the start of the holiday season,” said Alison. “This caused some bar owners to speak out and reiterate that tourism is needed to keep businesses afloat and that they are worried people have been put off visiting the island because of the ongoing protests.”

The expert continued: “With protests taking place across Spain, this will inevitably cause some anxiety amongst Brits who are jetting off on their summer holidays this year.

“The important point to remember is that organisers of the protests have stressed that they are not saying no to tourism, they simply want measures to be put in place to curb rising property and rental prices due to the number of people visiting the country each year. We’ve had no hostility or reports of anything but a welcoming attitude to visitors – the protests are directed at government decision-makers.”

She encourages British holidaymakers to continue with their usual holiday, but to be aware of the situation and show “respect” to the destination and the people who live there.

“The Spanish tourism board expected to welcome over nine million tourists in May alone this year, which shows that despite ongoing protests, tourists are still excited to enjoy their holidays and not be put off by news coming out of the country,” she said.

“Our advice for anyone visiting Spain this year is to enjoy every moment of your holiday and respect the area you’re staying in to help highlight to locals that Brits love the country just as much as they do.”

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