7 Apr, 2024 @ 13:11
5 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: What’s behind the anti-tourism graffiti in Spain? Locals in Tenerife give their verdict as they insist ‘it’s nothing personal against tourists’

LOCALS in Tenerife have insisted the anti-tourism graffiti popping up around in Spain ‘is nothing personal against individual tourists’.

Speaking to the Olive Press, residents on the Spanish holiday island said the ‘massification’ of tourism is the real target, as they called for a moratorium on the industry, along with a tourist tax and stricter controls. 

It comes as a wave of new anti-tourism graffiti has popped up near resorts over the past few weeks, with messages reading ‘tourists go home’ and ‘too many guiris’. 

Guiri is a Spanish slang word for foreigner, which is often used in a negative way to describe northern European or American visitors and expats. 


One poster taped to a wall said: ‘Locals are forced to move out and YOU are responsible for that… digital nomads you are NOT welcome here.’ 

But it seems some Brits are fighting back, with a message in English scribbled next to one of the slogans saying: ‘F**k off, we pay your wages!’ 

Tensions are rising on the island as more and more people join calls for restraints on tourism.

Later this month, on April 20, a protest is being planned by a string of environmental and social groups, again in the capital. 

A poster for the event says the Canary Islands ‘has a limit’ and that protesters will be marching for ‘conservation of natural spaces, a tourist moratorium, and tougher regulation for foreigners buying property.’ 

The main gripe among locals is the rising costs of renting and buying homes, as landlords continue to buy up Airbnbs and tourist lets, reducing supply and pushing up prices. 

Tech worker Ivan Cerdeña Molina, 36, is helping organise the protest this month as part of his role at local conservation group ATAN (Asociación Tinerfeña de Amigos de la Naturaleza).


He told the Olive Press: “We have nothing against individual tourists but the industry is growing and growing and using up so many resources and the island cannot cope.

“It’s a crisis, we have to change things urgently, people are living in their cars and even in caves, and locals can’t eat, drink or live well. 

“Airbnb and Booking.com are like a cancer that is consuming the island bit by bit.

“The benefits of the industry are not trickling down to everyday people, whose salaries have not increased in years, the quality of life here is collapsing.”

Ivan was born and raised in El Medano, a once quiet town about a 20 minute-drive east of the most popular tourist resort of Los Cristianos. 

Last Easter weekend, the area was filled with holidaymakers who packed out the beaches and parked dozens of caravans and jeeps on the once-protected land behind. 

Local painter Vicky Colomer, 63, told the Olive Press: “I feel like a foreigner here, I don’t feel comfortable anymore, it’s like everything is made for British and German tourists who just want to drink cheap beer, lay in the sun and eat burgers and chips. 

‘You’re not welcome’: One of the messages left for ‘digital nomads’ in Tenerife (COPYRIGHT WALTER FINCH/OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

“We need higher quality tourists who actually want to experience our culture and food and respect our nature.

“This was a paradise but now it’s not and it makes me angry. We must reduce the number of flights and visitors and focus on bringing higher quality people.”

She added: “There are hundreds of caravans who park up illegally and leave rubbish all over the place. 

“Near my home a few weeks ago foreign tourists put on a rave with a DJ booth and speakers in the middle of a field, that is not acceptable.”

She added that young people are increasingly tired of being unable to find decent work. 

“They study for years and go to university but the only jobs offered to them here is in a hotel or a restaurant or bar, so all our young talent has to move away to the mainland if they want to pursue a proper career, it’s not right.”

Traffic is also a major problem, added Vicky, with delays between resort towns and the motorway of up to an hour-and-a-half during high season. 

She added: “Even the public transport is being taken over, the other day a tour guide jump the queue for a bus and had 20 tourists with her, and locals were forced to wait for another one.”

But it’s not just the impact on human life that is enraging portions of the population. 

Biologist Anne Striewe, 47, told the Olive Press of the damaging effect tourism has on wildlife. 

British expat Jay says locals should blame greedy landlords (COPYRIGHT WALTER FINCH/OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

“There are hundreds of boats and jet skis in our waters everyday, pumping petrol into the water,” she said. 

“Then there are the boat parties which blast music all day long, and what people don’t realise is that this is picked up by whales and other creatures and really confuses and frightens them, it makes them go crazy. 

“Meanwhile there have been multiple cases of animals being injured or killed by boat propellers, there are often vessels in protected waters but no one is cracking down on the activity.

“We don’t want to stop tourism altogether, of course not, but we want to manage it better and bring in more controls.

“We have nothing against tourists personally, I think these grafitti are just a way for people to call attention to the many issues.”

Meanwhile, according to environmental group Salvar Tenerife (Save Tenerife), millions of litres of sewage water is being dumped into the sea off Tenerife and other islands every single day, with the amount rising significantly when there is a high number of holidaymakers. 

Back in Los Cristianos, British expats and tourists rushed to defend themselves against the rising anti-tourism sentiment. 

British tourist John Ashley (second from left), said the English are essential to the economy (COPYRIGHT WALTER FINCH/ OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

Melissa Taylor, 47, works in the popular Giddy Goose English pub in Las Playas de las Americas. 

She told this paper: “The anti-tourism stuff has suddenly peaked recently.  I think it’s unfair what they’re saying, without tourism there would be nothing here.

“Brits come here and spend a lot of money, the overwhelming majority of our customers are from the UK.”

Her colleague Terrilea Clayton, 22, shared her sentiment. 

“It’s a bit silly and unfair,’ she said, ‘without tourism I wouldn’t have a job and it brings money to the island. 

“During Covid Tenerife became a ghost town and it was terrible.”

However she admitted: “I’ve lived here for 10 years and I do understand some of the arguments about rent, I was actually kicked out of a flat because the landlord wanted to turn it into an Airbnb.”

British tourists were also adamant that they bring something to the Canary Islands. 

John Ashley, 61, from Durham, said: “It’s ridiculous, if they stop or reduce the number of tourists coming they’ll be sorry.

“If the English didn’t come, I tell you right now that graffiti would change to say ‘English please come back!”

Across the road, Londoner Jay Neil, 43, said locals need to stop taking out all the problems on tourism. 

The worker at the popular Yolo bar told the Olive Press: “I’ve lived here 17 years and yes the property situation has got crazy. 

“But they need to stop blaming tourists, it’s the greedy landlords that are the problem, there’s people buying like five apartments and renting them to holidaymakers because they know they can make a fortune. 

“Saying tourists go home is just silly, it’s the government that needs to act to sort out the housing crisis, which is happening all over the world not just here.”

Irish expat Bronagh Maheor, 23, added: “It’s totally unfair, without tourists here there would not be hotels or businesses, I’d be out of a job, we need them.”

Laurence Dollimore

Laurence has a BA and MA in International Relations and a Gold Standard diploma in Multi-Media journalism from News Associates in London. He has almost a decade of experience and previously worked as a senior reporter for the Mail Online in London.

GOT A STORY? Contact [email protected] or call +34 951 273 575 Twitter: @olivepress

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