Tourism Development in the Canary Islands

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Sergio Moreno Gil: Departamento de Economıa y Dirección de Empresas,. Universidad ... 2001 La Comercialización del Producto Turıstico Canario. Las Palmas ...



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Submitted 2 August 2002. Accepted 25 October 2002. Revised 6 November 2002. Revised 1 February 2003 doi: 10.1016/S0160-7383(03)00049-5 Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 744–747, 2003  2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. Printed in Great Britain 0160-7383/03/$30.00

Tourism Development in the Canary Islands Sergio Moreno Gil University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

This note analyzes tourism planning and development in the Canaries and tries to give guidelines to avoid future imbalances. It finds that, prior to implementing any partial measure, such as a moratorium, a global analysis is required, and that designing integrated information systems would help Canarian management in the future. Tourism accounts for approximately 50% of the GDP of the Canary Islands, a leading European destination receiving more than 13 million tourists a year (Canarian Government 2001a). The Canaries, with an area of just over 7,500 km2, are crowded, with most of the coastline built up and more roads per km2 than any other European islands. The high tourist/resident annual ratio of 5.45:1 means the generation of 20% more solid waste than the national average. While creating work, jobs are generally poorly paid with no prestige or future career paths (Department of Tourism 2001). Managers have followed the strong focus of capital investment, but they often lack specialist knowledge. For example, there has been a “downloading” onto tourism, mainly by the cement industry (construction). Given the number of huge complexes on the islands one may be tempted to call it “concrete tourism”. A lack of legislation and professionalism resulted in confusing Spanish and Canarian tourism regulations. The management and staff appear poorly trained, highlighted by a university curriculum that lacks advanced degree studies in the field (Department of Tourism 2001). In Spain, the first



tourism undergraduate degree courses did not commence until 1999 (Esteban Talaya 2000). Supply and demand must be reconciled both quantitatively and qualitatively for a destination to be successful (Buhalis 2000). From the qualitative point of view, today’s arrivals to the Canaries are middle-aged and older, with great loyalty to the destination (ISTAC 2000). However, market studies reveal that their replacements are younger and have different tastes (Department of Tourism 2001). Furthermore, the accommodation supply has aged, exacerbated by poor maintenance. Table 1 shows a recurring imbalance and, in 1980 and 1990, when supply exceeded demand, it resulted in the Islands’ worst crises (Canarian Government 1997). Given that supply is predicted to outstrip demand, the Canaries may face a problematic situation. There are further factors that may aggravate that imbalance through competition and lack of future market growth. First, Mediterranean competition is growing. Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia doubled their number of hotel beds between 1990 and 2000. Second, Europe, as the principal source of outgoing tourists, is not growing in the same proportions. Third, Europe is the world region whose intra-tourism will grow the least in the next few years (WTO 2000). The forecast supply growth rate in the Canaries for 2006 would require the arrival of some 25 million per year for the economic activity of tourism to be profitable (Canarian Government 2001b). That figure not only seems to be unviable according to the most optimistic forecasts for the tourism growth rate in Europe (WTO 2000), but may not be sustainable. Despite the quantitative imbalance between supply and demand, the worrying social and environmental effects, and the fact that whenever the tourist offer has exceeded demand, a crisis has occurred, there are still voices claiming that the Canarian tourism-based economy will continue to perform well. However, a healthy economy and a prosperous community should go handin-hand. In a society where the language of economics and its indicators distance the public from politicians, tourism and its economic weight are creating a situation that, in many cases, is irreversible. Although some elements cannot be reversed, change is possible for the Canaries to mitigate the effects of the approaching imbalance. The government has taken the first step by laying down a protectionist measure, namely a tourism moratorium, limiting the construction of new accommodation units. However, this regulation may lead to the following undesirable implications. Table 1. Tourist Numbers and Accommodation Supply in the Canariesa Year

Bed offer % Growth

1980 1985 1990 1995 2002 2006b

172,452 186,350 364,269 324,124 595,595 847,671


24% 8% 95% !11% 84% 42%

Number of Tourists

% Growth

Difference in Growth Between Supply and Demand

2,228,086 3,688,936 5,459,473 9,693,086 13.214.158 14.416.769

11% 65% 48% 77% 36% 10%

13% !57% 47% !88% 48% 32%

Source: Canarian Goverment (2001b). Supply as forecast by the Canarian Government (2001b), and supply demand forecast by the WTO (2000) for Spain.




First, it may cause the opposite effect and accelerate the construction of new beds, as a result of the implementation of licenses issued prior to the moratorium. Second, it may cause the reappraisal of old, existing accommodation units, with the risk that they are not adapted and renovated despite changes in demand. Third, it may cause the flight of investments to other destinations (Department of Tourism 2001). General and integrated research is needed in order to establish a tourismdevelopment plan in the Canaries that would actively involve everybody affected by any proposed development. It must consider all the effects of regulations (such as the moratorium), and should focus on a multiplex analysis of tourism (Agarwal 2002; Inskeep 1993), not just on financial implications. A well-designed, evolutionary development plan (Miller 2001) needs to include a balanced scorecard (Kaplan and Norton 1996) that integrates information about markets, the well being of the host population (Dwyer and Forsyth 1993), and environmental management systems (Hughes 2002). A reasonable planning objective is that tourists pay according to their interests, the places A they visit, and their impact on the environment (Leon 1997). ! Sergio Moreno Gil: Departamento de Economı´a y Direccio´ n de Empresas, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Campus Universitario de Tafira, 35017 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. Email

REFERENCES Agarwal, S. 2002 Restructuring Seaside Tourism: The Resort Lifecycle. Annals of Tourism Research 29:25–55. Buhalis, D. 2000 Marketing the Competitive Destination of the Future. Tourism Management 21:97–116. Canarian Government 1997 Libro Blanco de Turismo Canario. Las Palmas GC: Consejerı´a de Turismo y Transportes. 2001a Destination Evolution of the Canaries and their Competitors’ Areas. Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Consejerı´a de Economı´a y Hacienda. 2001b Camas Turı´sticas de Canarias. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Gobierno de Canarias. Department of Tourism 2001 La Comercializacio´ n del Producto Turı´stico Canario. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Department of Tourism. Dwyer, L., and P. Forsyth 1993 Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Inbound Tourism. Annals of Tourism Research 20:751–768. Esteban Talaya, A. 2000 La Investigacio´n Turı´stica en la Universidad Espan ˜ ola. Estudios Turı´sticos 144 and 145:155–180. Hughes, G. 2002 Environmental Indicators. Annals of Tourism Research 29:457–477. Inskeep, E. 1993 Tourism Planning: An Integrated and Sustainable Development Approach. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISTAC 2000 Encuesta Sobre el Gasto Turı´stico. Canarias: Consejerı´a de Economı´a y Hacienda. Kaplan, R., and D. Norton 1996 The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy Into Action. London: Harvard Business School Press.



Leon, C. 1997 Valuing International Tourism Benefits From National Areas. Tourism Economics 3:119–136. Miller, G. 2001 The Development of Indicators for Sustainable Tourism. Results of a Delphi Survey of Tourism Researchers. Tourism Management 22:351–362. World Tourism Organization 2000 Tourism 2020 Vision: Volume 4, Europe Madrid: World Tourism Organization.

Submitted 27 July 2002. Resubmitted 8 October 2002. Resubmitted 26 November 2002. Revised 1 February 2003. Revised 5 February 2003 doi: 10.1016/S0160-7383(03)00050-1