The doctor in Social Anthropology from the University of La Laguna (ULL) Agustin Santana warns that the tourism sector “it is saturated” and there are certain areas where there are more and more people“, which affects not only the local population and their way of life, but threat To the system. “We are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs because we don’t know how to stop,” she warns in a report published by the University of La Laguna.
Santana is also director of Pasos, a Tourism and Cultural Heritage Magazine, and a member of the research groups Fishing, Tourism and Natural Resources Management (Pescatur) and Tourism Analysis Laboratory (Turilab), and criticizes the talk of “ demomization” the system when certain reflections are made. “We have to take a critical look inward and at the tourism and economic model, stop by points and invest in an analysis of the future. And that is something that is not done, not even in the university itself,” he admits, “either due to political obstacles or complacency.”
Agustín Santana refers to data from the Government of the Canary Islands, which recognized at the end of last year that if the future tourism planning planned for the archipelago is carried out, the islands would go from having 500,000 places to having 700,000, which would mean having to accommodate 22 .3 million tourists. “We have to start talking about population limits, carrying capacity for the islands, something that has already been implemented in destinations like Hawaii and Malta, but especially in Hawaii, an archipelago in which they depend, for everything, on the external environment. “, slips the ULL Anthropology professor. He defends the Canarian mass tourism model, but with fewer visitors, which would make the occupancy model somewhat more sustainable.
The tourists who visit the islands, mostly of medium purchasing power, point out that it works because it is in the hands of the tour operators, who “are the ones who fill the hotels,” and that changing this dynamic requires “courage” and long-term planning. term that in the Canary Islands “has never been carried out.” And when planning, Agustín Santana explains, a series of factors that “have come into play” must be taken into account, such as waste generation, carbon footprint, water, renewable energy or social costs. In addition to other “challenges”, from improving the customer experience process, associated with technology and tourism intelligence, coexistence with the already established collaborative models, the adequate management of macro data or the achievement of a more touristic offer. sustainable to become a differentiated destination.
The ULL professor emphasizes that “customers come to the Canary Islands fundamentally because of the climate, but also to enjoy the surrounding activities, the complementary offer that, although it is very dispersed, is of very good quality because its range of “The prices are very broad and adapt to the type of client who visits us.” Here you see one of the strengths of the Canary Islands destination: the complementary services, “if we compare them with those of other destinations, they are very good”, and that is “something that is rarely said, but our accommodation system is very good, the quality and the service provided are also.” But the key to achieving “quality tourism,” he says, involves protecting the environment: “Nowadays it is inconceivable to attract tourists to a destination without thinking about the impact that their entry may have on the territory.” He adds that the approach of mass tourism, “that of the more visitors who arrive, the better, entails the construction of more infrastructures of all kinds and collides head-on with the conception of a more respectful model that advocates for sociocultural identity and the protection of the environment.” ”.
Agustín Santana emphasizes that in an archipelago that is home to 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 “rethink certain things.” For example, he points out that Fuerteventura, which is a Biosphere Reserve, has a tourist rate per inhabitant per day that is triple that of Tenerife, and that has begun to generate “social and economic problems that are covered up because the economy has to function, but maybe in another way.” “It is not about talking from legislature to legislature, it is about talking about environmental problems that are both endogenous and exogenous and proposing long-term solutions,” insists the ULL professor. It also focuses on the situation of another Biosphere Reserve, the Anaga Massif, in Tenerife, which suffers from “saturation of cars and people.” In addition to the “necessary regulation” of access, he considers that there are “many vacation homes, already built as second homes that have been declared vacation homes,” which means that “the sociocultural change that has occurred in the area is tremendous.” Regarding vacation rentals, he indicates that statements such as “they redistribute wealth” are something that “looks very nice,” but today “that message has been completely distorted.”
The ULL research group did a study for almost a year with the figures of the company that analyzes the data from the Airbnb platform and found that, depending on the islands, there were managers who had 100 houses, 200 and even 250, while those with less than 10 “represented practically nothing in terms of the number of beds.”