A new urban project has raised controversy in Tenerife. On March 31, the Guia de Isora City Council announced the approval of a new luxury hotel with 900 beds. The Maguenes Resort joins the tourist offer of the island and, in addition, becomes the third luxury hotel to be built in the last 20 years in the municipality of Guía de Isora. A week ago, the municipal body approved the urban planning of the partial plan that accommodates this establishment that will extend 850,000 square meters.
The famous architect Norman Foster will build a luxury hotel complex in Tenerife
Adjacent to Adeje, the area that offers the most tourist beds in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Guía de Isora has been increasing its commitment to tourism in recent decades. The municipal economy depends largely on this sector along with the sale of Canarian bananas. The first luxury hotel that opened in the municipality was in 2005, when Pedro Martín, the current president of the Cabildo de Tenerife, was still mayor. The pioneer was the Ritz-Abama Resort hotel complex, which has its own extensive golf course. The second, in 2008, from the Meliá chain, Palacio de Isora.
Currently, Guía de Isora has seven hotels of different categories that are divided into 2,891 beds. In addition, four proposals have been presented to the City Council to build four new hotels, among which is the Maguenes Resort project and the construction of another luxury complex in Playa San Juan is already underway, adding another 1,100 beds to the tourist offer of the municipality.
The Maguenes Resort project
This new accommodation has been presented as the first designed by the architect Norman Foster in the Canary Islands. The entity behind it is called Compañías de las Islas Occidentales, also known as the CIO group, and is chaired by Francisco Javier Zamorano. This company is also the owner of The Tais Collection, a chain of luxury hotels that includes the Hotel Bahía del Duque in Adeje. They also own the Grupo Record security company and sources from the CIO group have confirmed that they have the Fuentealta watermark.
In 2017, the Government of the Canary Islands, chaired by Fernando Clavijo (Canarian Coalition), declared the Maguenes Resort project to be of strategic interest. This differentiation began to be granted in the Archipelago with a law created by the Canarian executive two years earlier. With this category, the deadlines for administrative procedures can be reduced by up to half of the ordinary time.
With the approval of the partial plan, the City Council has given the green light to the location of the hotel, as well as to the construction of the new golf course. The complete project will be published on the website of the consistory in the coming weeks. For her part, the mayor of Guía de Isora, the socialist Josefa Mesa, defends the project because it follows “the line of the type of luxury tourism that has always been pursued from the municipality.”
Adaptation to the environment
Following the line of César Manrique in Lanzarote, the project proposed by the CIO group for the future Maguenes Resort seeks to adapt to the environment to reduce the visual impact. Maguenes Resort defines on its website “sustainable development as one of the priorities” of the promoter. However, environmentalists insist that the ecological impact generated by hotel accommodation with that many beds goes beyond its visual appearance.
“The construction of a hotel generates an environmental impact caused by the consumption of water, energy consumption, the occupation of the territory, the contamination of the waters or the increase in the number of visitors in the natural spaces of the islands”, defends Fran Castro , one of the spokespersons for Ben Magec-Ecologists in Action in Tenerife.
The initiative aims to sell a luxury project, adapted to the environment and with an “attractive offer for sports and golf fans”. For the Councilor for Town Planning of the City Council of Guía de Isora, the socialist Eduardo González, the construction of these spaces is a symbol of the municipality’s commitment to sport.
The project that Maguenes Resort announces as sustainable is received with skepticism in the environmental sectors of Tenerife. Although the island has limited water resources, tourist accommodation bets on golf courses are frequent. In this case, the Maguenes Resort will dedicate 500,000 square meters to its own course. However, the spokesman for Ben Magec-Ecologistas en Acción points out that “golf courses pervert two important elements in the Canary Islands: the territory and the water”.
Tourism sector dependency
The main economic engine of the Canary Islands is tourism. During the most complicated moments of the health crisis caused by the coronavirus, the hotels and shops that lived in this sector were forced to subsist at a minimum and many closed their doors. Dependence on tourism is for many the key point of the economy of the Archipelago and for others, the weak point and the cause of poverty in the Islands, since the Canary Islands are the second autonomous community in the country at risk of poverty and exclusion .
“We are in a market economy and all tourist destinations in the country, and I would dare to say also in Europe, have similar dynamics,” explains the CEO of Tourism of the Cabildo de Tenerife, David Pérez. The CEO, questioned by this debate, refers to the zero tourism caused by the pandemic and points out that this health crisis not only affected the people who worked in the accommodation, but also the employment chains that are around them.
“It is desirable? Do we have to continue on the path of continuing to increase our accommodation capacity with all that this implies at the moment? For our part, our answer is no, it is neither logical nor desirable”, argues Fran Castro. “The vulnerability of tourism in the health crisis has been demonstrated,” he adds.
The hotel offer in the Canary Islands
In the month of February alone, the Canary Islands received more than a million tourists, the equivalent of 50% of the Canarian population. During that period, Tenerife was the island that received the most tourists, around 472,884, according to data published by the Canary Islands Institute of Statistics (ISTAC).
The current offer of places for tourists in Tenerife is equivalent to 18% of the total population of the island. A study carried out between the CajaCanarias Tourism Chair, Ashotel (Hotel and Non-Hotel Association of Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro) and the University of La Laguna dated 89,197 hotel beds available in 2018 in Tenerife alone. Four years later, in January 2022, according to data published by the Cabildo de Tenerife, the authorized tourist places on the island are 162,573 including hotels, apartments, vacation homes, hotels and rural houses.
Guía de Isora occupies the sixth position among the seven Tenerife municipalities that offer the most tourist places, according to the Active Population Survey (EPA). However, it is still far from the accommodation capacity of the most touristic municipalities such as Adeje (with 66 hotels), Puerto de la Cruz (with 61) or Arona (45).
“I have noticed for four or five years that the urban development of large infrastructures has moved. First it was in Arona with Los Cristianos, then in Adeje with Costa Adeje and now it seems that this trend has moved to Guía de Isora”, says environmentalist Fran Castro.
The new hotel, near the port of Fonsalía
“The area of this new hotel is very close to where the Fonsalía port commercial and passenger initiative was planned less than a year ago,” explains Ecologists in Action. Later, paralyzed by the Parliament of the Canary Islands after the citizen rejection. With more than 420,000 signatures on a web page of citizen mobilizations, the people of the Canary Islands said no to this infrastructure.
There is a distance of six kilometers between the Fonsalía project and the location of the future Maguenes Resort hotel. Asked about the relationship between the two projects, the CEO of the Cabildo de Tenerife, David Pérez, replies: “I don’t know what relationship they can have, if they do. I can’t tell you because I don’t know.”
Initially, both the Government of the Canary Islands, the Cabildo of Tenerife and the City Council of Guía de Isora were in favor of the construction of the Port of Fonsalía.
The Canarian Network of Protected Natural Spaces numbers 146 natural spaces that have some type of protection on the Islands. The Canary archipelago extends over 7,493 square kilometres. Natural spaces have increasingly become “reduced preserves”, says the environmentalist Fran Castro.
“Tenerife has almost half of its land protected and tourist infrastructure barely reaches 4% of the territory,” defends David Pérez. The CEO explains that if rustic land is also added, one speaks of an area “that is being developed based on criteria of total and absolute sustainability”, he points out.
At this point, the spokesperson for Ben Magec-Ecologistas en Acción in Tenerife, Eugenio Reyes, invites us to reflect: “If you sell your house, of course you will have money, but you will be left homeless. When you sell your assets you monetize yourself, but you become poorer. That is the problem of the City Councils, which only want to monitor and not dose strategic resources and that comes from speculative pressure”.