Thousands of local residents take to the streets to protest against tourism – but not, yet, in Cornwall

Posted By on 21st April 2024

By Julia Penhaligon

The idea that local government in Cornwall is increasingly out of step with public opinion about tourism has been underlined by a huge protest in the Canary Islands.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Tenerife on Saturday to call for limits to tourism.

There were also protests on the other Spanish islands of Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and La Palma.  Some anti-tourism activists have gone on hunger strike.

Locals fear a boom in short-term holiday rentals and hotel construction is driving up housing costs.

The Conservative-controlled Cornwall Council is currently returning is economic “policy” to favour tourism over other industrial sectors, such as manufacturing, agriculture, technology and media.

Last month the council’s ruling cabinet embraced a new direction, taking a central role in the Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP.)  The LVEP closely resembles the old Cornwall Tourist Board of the 1970s, which for decades successfully channelled public funds into schemes designed to promote tourism.

The LVEP now has a place on the new Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Economic Forum, which has replaced the former Local Enterprise Partnership.  The current Tory leadership has set its face against anything that resembles a tourist tax.

So far Cornish residents have not taken to the streets to protest.  But Saturday’s demonstration in Tenerife might be contagious.

Holding placards reading "People live here" and "We don't want to see our island die," demonstrators said changes must be made to the tourism industry that accounts for 35% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the Canary Islands archipelago.

Photo: EPA/Facebook

"It's not a message against the tourist, but against a tourism model that doesn't benefit this land and needs to be changed," one of the protesters told Reuters during the march in Tenerife's capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Smaller marches were held elsewhere in the island group and other Spanish cities, all of them organised by about two dozen environmental organisations ahead of the peak summer holiday season.

The organisations say local authorities should temporarily limit visitor numbers to alleviate pressure on the islands' environment, infrastructure and housing stock, and put curbs on property purchases by foreigners.

"The authorities must immediately stop this corrupt and destructive model that depletes the resources and makes the economy more precarious.

The Canary Islands have limits and people's patience too," Antonio Bullon, one of the protest leaders, told Reuters.

In Cornwall, most opposition political parties are still cautious about challenging the powerful tourism lobby.  Only the Green Party went into the 2021 local council elections calling for a tourism tax.

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