Canary Islands could become the next holiday hotspot to introduce a tourist tax
With visitor number booming, the Canary Islands may be the next region to introduce a tourist tax as well as restrict holiday rentals.
Its government has been urged by the PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español), the non-ruling socialist party of the Canary Islands, to impose the tax and cap the number of holiday homes in a bid to protect its environment and limit tourist saturation across the islands.
The archipelago is said to have welcomed more than 16 million visitors in 2017 – a record number – according to preliminary figures revealed this month by Isaac Castellano, the Canary Islands’ minister for tourism, culture and sport.
Canary Island officials are reportedly looking to introduce a tariff similar to the current ‘eco tax’ in the Balearics – including in Majorca and Ibiza – where a Sustainable Tourism Tax has been in place since July 2016.
The tax was said to have raised around €30 million between July and December alone in 2016, according to Pilar Carbonell, general director of tourism for the region.
80pc of this was used to finance a total of 46 environmental initiatives, while the remainder was used to promote sustainable holidays and train tourism workers.
The proposed Canary Islands tax could be used to fund similar environmental projects, noted Dolores Corujo, a spokesperson for PSOE, who said: "It's about the citizens knowing where the money goes."
Last year, the Balearic Islands also announced plans to double their tourist tax during the peak season in an effort to tackle overcrowding.
The new rates, if approved, will be €1 per person per day for campers and hostel guests, €2 for cruise passengers and those staying in cheaper hotels and apartments, €3 for mid-range accommodation, and €4 for top-end hotels. Those under the age of 16 will be exempt and rates will be reduced during the winter months (November to April).
But Canary Island tourism officials, including Mr Castellano, are said to have come down firmly against the latest tax, arguing that it would be counterproductive to the archipelago's economy, according to Andrea Montgomery, a Tenerife expert with Telegraph Travel. But the debate over introducing a tourist tax has been ongoing in the Canary Islands for a while, she adds.
“I don't think there's any imminent likelihood of its implementation. If the tax does go ahead, and I'm sceptical that it will, I think it will likely have an effect on the fly-and-flop market but will have little effect on the active and cultural slow tourism market, which the islands need to attract in order to ensure sustainability,” she said.
"Holiday homes makes up less than 10pc of the tourism market in the Canary Islands and the clamp down will be more about restricting 'illegal renting' and will protect the balance between tourism rentals and affordable, long-term rentals for residents in tourist areas, thus countering the Airbnb factor which is, in my opinion, a good thing," Montgomery notes.
“But in all honesty, people will always come to the Canary Islands simply because they want the sun, they might gripe about the tax but as long as these islands are as safe and accessible as they are now, holidaymakers will still come."
Is the tourist tax necessary?
“Tourism across the Canary Islands is largely concentrated on purpose-built resorts, away from the main centres of Canarian population. Unlike places such as Dubrovnik where tourist numbers have in many ways destroyed the very nature of the city, generally speaking the Canary Islands' mass tourism is in the hottest and driest parts of the islands, places where there was very little local life in the first place. In that respect, tourism has brought life and wealth where before, there was only desert,” Montgomery notes.
Restrictions in the Canaries aren’t new
There have long been restrictions in places like the summit of Mount Teide and the Barranco del Infeirno in Tenerife, which limit the number of visitors in order to prevent environmental damage, and there's talk of further restrictions in places such as Teide National Park and Masca Barranco, our expert notes.
“These pinpoint restrictions serve to reduce the impact of over- tourism at a micro level rather than a macro one and as such, they're very effective and easily understood and accepted by visitors,” she said.
What's the alternative?
“On the other hand, the number of new hotels springing up around the bigger islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote is simply unsustainable with more and more pressure on land availability and on the use of resources such as water.
"Islands such as La Palma, La Gomera (above) and El Hierro tend to attract a different type of visitor, those who are more active and who make a better contribution to the economy by staying in small rural hotels and eating in local restaurants.
"In recent years Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria have all shifted their marketing efforts towards attracting more of this kind of tourist which is, in my opinion, a more sustainable strategy for the future,” Montgomery said.