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 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.