Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against mass tourism on Saturday under the slogan “The Canary Islands have a border”. A total of 55,000 demonstrators demanded an upper limit on the number of tourists or affordable housing for locals on the eight inhabited Spanish islands in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa, as the state TV broadcaster RTVE and the newspaper “El PaĆ­s” reported. For example, “Tourism is increasing my rent” and “Paradise is not made with concrete” could be read on banners.

The protesters were also concerned with effective monitoring of the regulations for the rental of holiday accommodation, a limit on the purchase of property by people without residence on the islands and the introduction of an environmental tax for tourists.

A good 2.2 million people live in the Canary Islands. Almost seven times as many foreign tourists visited the islands last year, around 14 million visitors, mainly from Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. There were also around two million Spaniards from the mainland. Most foreign tourists went to the larger islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.

Tourism is essential to the islands’ economy. The industry accounts for 35 percent of economic output and secures 40 percent of jobs. But only a few are benefiting from the boom. Of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, which correspond to the German federal states, the Canary Islands are the second poorest.

Activists emphasize that they are not fundamentally against tourism, but rather against the gradual destruction of the islands. Biologist and well-known documentary filmmaker Felipe Ravina recently said: “For years we have been promoting ourselves as a unique natural destination in the world, but tourism is destroying the product we sell.”