Tourism in Tenerife

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, a part of Spanish territory off the West coast of Africa. It is dominated by a volcano called Mount Teide, which last erupted in 1909 and is 3,718m tall.

In the 2001 census, Tenerife has 778,000 people. This equates to a 380 people per km^2 population density. Tourism first started there in the 1960s and now accounts for 80% of the GDP. In 2005, about 70% of workers were involved somehow in tourism via service industries. Other industries supporting tourism supplies another 16% with jobs.

Attractions to tourists

  • Humid, subtropical climate

The effect of the Atlantic Ocean means that mean monthly temperatures only range from 18 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees. Sea surface temperatures reach up to 23 degrees. It does not frequently fall below 15 degrees.

Windward slopes receive far more rain than other parts of the island, as do the higher altitude areas due to rain shadowing. The island has a nigh permanent cloud layer because of the orthographic effect of Mount Teide. Because the top of the mountain is so much higher than the cloud layer of 2,000m, the peak area is one of the driest points on the island.

  • Although Tenerife is naturally a rocky island, sand is imported to form beaches (such as Playa De Las Americas and Los Cristianos). These are normally small, however.
  • The climate encourages a high biodiversity on the island
  • There is attractive hiking and walking country in the higher altitude pinewoods.
  • The caldera of Mount Teide attracts many visitors and is in the centre of a national park. A cable car gives access to the summit
  • The caldera has been deemed a World heritage Site as of 2007
  • There are step pyramids at Guimar that were built by the native Guanches people in prehistoric times.

Growth of tourism

Tourism originally started in the North of the island, which was already fashionable to British and Spanish tourists to visit in the late 19th century. It is still the most popular destination for Spanish visitors to the Canary Islands.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s access to flights became far easier and cheaper, allowing more visitors. Longer paid holidays in much of the Western world encouraged people to take holidays to more exotic locations. With this boom tourist activity moved to the South of the country, resulting in rapid urbanisation of a long stretch of the Southern coastline from Los Cristianos to Playa De Las Americas. This area now attracts 60% of Tenerife’s tourists and houses many expatriates. Over 95% of British tourists stay there.

Resorts specialise in low-cost tourism.

Opportunities from tourism

  • Before tourism, Tenerife was a poor, agricultural island. Lack of employment forced people out to other countries. Tourism has counteracted this, and few young people now leave for work.
  • Tourism has created thousands of new jobs
  • It generates 60% of the island’s GDP.
  • Through the multiplier effect, income is generated through many industries
  • Tourism is year-round income
  • Tourism has had to cater for 5 million guests annually, meaning transport has been well upgraded
  • Tourism has its own airport- Tenerife South international airport, completed in 1978, which is the 6th busiest Spanish airport. Tenerife has another airport, and they are linked by a motorway, further helping transport links.
  • Teide National Park was designated in 1954 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to tourists raising awareness of the importance for maintaining the environment  there.
  • Similarly, the Corona Forest Nature Park has been set up, with many other reserves.

Problems from tourism

  • Most new development is of poor quality in the South.
  • There was initially no planning for new developments, creating a concrete jungle, such as in Playa De Las Americas.
  • The towns are unattractive and over built
  • There are high congestion levels
  • The environmental quality reduced tourist visits.
  • Nightlife in some towns has meant the island has an image of rowdiness to potential visitors.
  • Average population growth in the south between 1980 and 2001 was 3.2% compared to an island wide figure of 1.1%. This indicates overcrowding in the South, and also correlates to the massive immigration of other Europeans.
  • Water is very scarce- water supplies are fixed while demand is rising. Most water is from aquifiers, causing water levels to fall and quality to fall too. Either more needs to be supplied by recycling waste or by desalinating sea water, but neither of these are cheap. There are 2 current desalination plants, but the energy for them has to be imported.
  • There are sewage disposal issues and there are reports of 3 sewage plants releasing raw sewage straight into the sea in tourist areas.
  • Beaches in the Southeast are mostly artificial, and supplying all the sand for them requires extensive dredging from the sea floor- and subsequently massive damage to marine ecosystems
  • Local culture is undermined due to the presence of so many British tourists
  • Only 1/3 of the arable land is now farmed
  • Young people leave rural areas for the cities to find work. this work is often low-paid and low-skilled.
  • The Canary Islands have the lowest average wages of anywhere in Spain

The future

The Tenerife Tourism Corporation has been trying to improve the island’s image, due to competition from cheaper destinations. Competitiveness decreasing has been an issue since 1986, when Spain joined the EU and labour costs increased. recent decline in visitor numbers suggest the island’s appeal is stagnating. Today’s tourists have higher expectations than those in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Some 5* hotels, boutique hotels, gold courses and spas have been built to help attract wealthier tourists. This means fewer visitors, but the capital from each should result in higher profitability. Environmental pressure would also be reduced.

However, it is hard to suddenly improve the image of the island for tourists.

Ecotourism and heritage tourism are being promoted to help remove some pressure of the sea front.

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Costa Del Sol- part I

Tourism is a major economic asset in Mediterranean countries, with a strong emphasis on the coast, putting pressure on coastal areas. Despite environmental protection, 200 km of coastline is being developed each year and by 2025, it’s predicted that half of the coastline will be built upon, with some conurbations lasting for hundreds of km.

Pressures on the Costa Del Sol

  • Growing population of coastal areas
  • Development of airports, holiday resorts and general urban sprawl leading to damage to disappearance of fragile wetland ecosystems
  • Poor management of coastal areas leading to change in sediment flows
  • Removal of marine sediment for construction sites has damaged the sea bed
  • Oil and gas infrastructure development has seen a rise in the numbers of oil tankers- about 30% of all oil transits go through the Mediterranean
  • Use of chemicals in agriculture has increased river and sea pollution.
  • Rising rates of eutrophication
  • Industrial developments have increased chemical discharge
  • Uncontrolled waste management
  • Untreated water waste being discharged to the sea
  • 650 tons of sewage, 129,000 tons of mineral oil, 60,000 tons of mercury, 3,800 tons of lead and 36,000 tons of phosphates are dumped in the Mediterranean annually

Shipping- it is estimated 220,000 merchant ships transporting 100 tons of material cross the Mediterranean annually.

Fish stocks- 65% of stock within the region are outside safe biological limits, and many important stocks are threatened

Industry- fish farming in the Mediterranean accounts for 30% of global fish consumption. The industry claims this reduces pressure on wild stocks, but farmed species are often carnivorous so need 5x their weight in wild fish to support them

Management

In 1975, the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) was set up as part of the United Nations’ Environmental Programme (UNEP). MAP’s goal was to protect marine environments along the Mediteranean. In 1995, this was widened to include the whole coastal region.

A strategy was drawn up by 300 scientific experts in a report presented in 2006 which gave the following recommendations:

  • 10% of all marine and coastal habitats should be protected, adding to 80 currently protected wetland areas
  • Green areas between urban areas are to be encouraged to reduce linear development
  • Reduction of linear road building
  • Inland tourism should be encouraged to reduce pressure on the coast
  • Future tourist development should show awareness for the environment in planning and show economic responsibility for the environment when completed
  • Stricter rules to combat pollution from boats
  • Improved energy management in order to reduce the need for coastal power stations
  • All waste water should be fully treated before being discharged into the sea.

Yosemite National Park

 Yosemite National Park receives 3 million visitors a year, most arriving by car in similar areas. Building roads and car parks disturbs wildlife as there is less space for them to live in, and also the noise can cause them to move away, and in some circumstances, very sensitive species can stop breeding altogether due to the presence of a large road nearby, or be scared out of the area.

Air pollutants in car exhausts are also an issue; sometimes the smog in the valley gets thick enough due to a temperature inversion in the dramatic (and frankly beautiful) valley areas that the features cannot actually be seen.

(Image source: http://www.myyosemitepark.com/places/ )