Published On: Thu, Feb 8th, 2024
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Telling tourists to leave Tenerife will do more harm than good | Express Comment | Comment

Playa de las Teresitas in Tenerife

The slogan ‘tourists go home’ has become popular on Tenerife. (Image: Getty)

As any self-respecting snob may well testify, a trip to Tenerife sounds so much better when rebadged as a holiday in the Canaries.

After all, rebranding a vacation on this sun-soaked island this way suggests a more rarified, exotic and fundamentally genteel destination. Tenerife on the other hand often elicits a nose-wrinkling response – the location semaphore for the nesting place of the classic boozy Brit abroad.

Certainly, as we boarded our Jet 2 flight from Manchester the other week, there was, thanks to a bawdy group of young men, every reason to believe the cliché to be a reality.

Shouting and jeering, they paid little heed to the comfort of their fellow travelers. One of them did nothing but roar stupid phrases on repeat for the entire length of the four-hour journey.

Thanks not least to an especially helpless bunch of stewardesses who were manifestly unable to deal with the situation (how on earth would this cowering cabin crew deal with a serious threat? An alarming discussion for another time!)

Yet thankfully this wasn’t the real story. And what became clear during our trip to Tenerife was that so long as you steer well away from some of the fruitier hotspots in the south, this, the largest of the Canary Islands, is an utterly charming place.

The locals are warm and proud of their heritage whilst the customer service in bars, restaurants, and hotels is friendly and super-efficient.

What then to make of the news that the reality is that tourists are not welcome to the island?

The slogan “tourists go home” has, it has been reported, become popular on Tenerife, with social and environmental groups protesting against the “irreparable damage” done by mass tourism in the area.

Second homes are also a point of contention for the campaigners, which they say are “unsustainable” (though given they are second homes, surely the footprint is smaller since those who own them don’t live on the island full time.)

Protesters have even begun demanding an “eco-tax” for tourists to offset the “irreparable” damage they cause to the local environment on Tenerife.

But as ever, like other examples of the Greta Thunberg school of knee-jerk activism, there is, ironically, more light than heat.

Tourists on vacation, Tenerife.

Were the tourists to take the advice to ‘go home’, Tenerife would soon feel the impact. (Image: Getty)

For the noble radicals of Tenerife should look instead at the benefits of visitors to their island.

With its consistently warm temperature, it’s no surprise that more than five million tourists visit Tenerife each year, nearly half of whom are Brits.

As a result, billions of euros are pumped into the economy – the hospitality industry and the services sector generate more than 60% of the island’s GDP.

Were the tourists to take the advice to “go home”, Tenerife would soon feel the impact. An impact it cannot afford. Only recently, it was reported that many locals on the island have been so affected by the housing crisis and cost of living so much that they need to abandon their homes for shanty towns.

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Climate protestors have particular beef with hotel complexes sprouting along the popular beaches of south Tenerife claiming they are eating into the natural wonder of the island.

Yet you only need point the hire car – sorry, Greta – away from the fleshpots of Playa de Las Americas to find gorgeous mountaintop villages, pine forests, movie-style volcanic landscapes and sprawling parks.

Certainly, as we crisscrossed Tenerife in search of the real Canarian character, there were no signs of an island at the center of an eco-crisis.

Perhaps then what’s happening in Tenerife should give pause to those whose default position regarding global warming is armageddon and act as a snapshot instead of others quick to howl about impending climate disasters.

White Car on Mountain Road, Anaga Mountains, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Thanks to its consistently warm temperature, more than 5m tourists visit Tenerife each year. (Image: Getty)

The reality is that climate change is not about good cop/bad cop politics of course it’s a vitally important policy. And inevitably travel gives it horsepower. A study by the University of La Laguna in Tenerife estimates that carbon emissions from tourist flights amount to 54% of the emissions already caused by the Canary Islands.

That said, without air travel this island, located in the Atlantic to the west of Africa would surely be cut off.

But tourism isn’t the source of all evil – and aiming at so-called perpetrators (in this case, holidaymakers) can do more harm than good.

Fortunately, whatever protesters may say, we felt very welcome in Tenerife. Hopefully, pragmatism has displaced grassroots protest. This is an island where all is not as it seems, just as the jeering boors on our holiday flight don`t reflect the rest of us who simply want to come and enjoy the Canarian dream.

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