“We are killing the chicken with golden hues”: a warning from a tourism expert on the future of the Canary IslandsCARSTEN W. LAURITSEN
Like it or not, tourism is the main economic sector of the Canary Islands. A model that, according to an expert in the sector, could be at risk of saturation in the tourism sector.
Doctor in Social Anthropology from the University of La Laguna (ULL) Agustín Santana warns that the tourist sector “is saturated and there are certain areas where there are increasingly more people”what affects the local population and its way of life on the ground, which weakens the system.
“We are killing the gallina de los huevos de oro because we don’t know how to stop“, he warned in a report published by University of La Laguna.
Santana, who is director of Pasos, Revista de Turismo y Patrimonio Cultural, and member of the research groups Pesca, Turismo y Gestión de Recursos Naturales (Pescatur) and Laboratorio de Análisis del Turismo (Turilab), criticizes the ability to “demomize” the system when certain reflections are made.
“We have to do a critical look is inside and there is the tourist and economic model, stop at points and invert in an analysis of the future. Y eso es algo que no se hace, ni si quiera en la propia universidad”, he admits, “ya se por trabas politicas ou por self-complacencia”.
Agustín Santana refers to the data of the Government of Canarias, which he recognized at the end of the last year that If the planned future tourist planning is carried out in the archipelago, the islands would have to have 500,000 plazas with 700,000, which would mean having to accommodate 22.3 million tourists.
“We have to start talking about population limitsof carrying capacity for the islands, something that has already been implemented in destinations like Hawaii and Maltabut especially in Hawaii, an archipelago that depends, for everything, on the external environment”, says the professor of Anthropology at ULL.
It defends the Canarian mass tourist model, but with fewer visitors, so that the occupation model would be something more sustainable.
As for the type of tourist who visits the islands, mostly with a medium purchasing level, it works because they are in the hands of tourist operators, who “are filling the hotels”, and changing this dynamic requires “brave” and long-term planning that in Canarias “has never been carried out”.
When it comes to planning, Agustín Santana abounds, he has to account for a series of factors that “have come into play” such as waste generation, carbon dioxide, water, renewable energy or social costs.
In addition to other “straight”from the improvement of the customer experience process, associated with technology and tourist intelligence, the coexistence with our established collaborative models, the appropriate management of macro data or the achievement of a more sustainable tourist offer to be built in a destination differentiated.
The teacher of the ULL has a hint where “The client comes to Canarias mainly for the climate, but also to enjoy the surrounding activitiesof the complementary offer that, although it is very dispersed, is of very good quality because its price range is very wide and adapts to the type of customer that visits us”.
Here is one of the strengths of the Canary Islands destination: the complementary services, “if we compare them with other destinations, they are very good”, and that is “something that is small, but our accommodation system is very good, the quality and the service provided is also his son”.
But the key to achieving “quality tourism”, he states, is through the protection of the surroundings: “Today it is inconceivable to attract tourists to a destination without thinking about the repercussion that their entry could have on the territory”.
Y añade que the mass tourism plant, “the number of more visitors that arrives, better, involves the construction of more infrastructures of all types and clashes head on with the conception of a more respectful model that defends sociocultural identity and the protection of the environment”.
Agustín Santana points out that in an archipelago that houses four national parks, and in which six islands and a massif, the Anaga mountain range, have been declared a Biosphere Reserve, it is necessary to “replant certain things”.
For example, it is known that Fuerteventura, which is a Biosphere Reserve, has a tourist rate per inhabitant and a day that triples that of Tenerife, and this has started to generate “social and economic problems that are being covered because the economy has to work, but the best in another way”.
“It’s not about talking from legislature to legislature, it’s about talking about environmental problems that are both endogenous and exogenous and planning long-term solutions”, insists the ULL professor.
It also takes place in the situation of another Biosphere Reserve, the Macizo de Anaga, in Tenerife, which suffers from “a saturation of coaches and people”.
In addition to the “necessary regulation” of access, he considers that there are “many vacation rentals, built as second homes that have been declared vacation rentals”, which means that “the sociocultural change that has taken place in the area is tremendous”.
Regarding the vacation rental, he indicates that statements like “redistributing wealth” are something that “falls very nicely”, but today “this message has completely distorted”.
The ULL research group did a study every year with the figures from the company that analyzed data from the Airbnb platform and confirmed that, using the islands, there were managers who took over 100 houses, 200 and even 250, However, those with less than 10 “represented practically nothing in the number of beds”.