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The Sustainable Tourism Project

As a Geoscience education and tourism company, with a special interest in responsible science communication, based in the Canary Islands, we are in a unique position to document and analyse sustainable and unsustainable tourism practices across the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands archipelago is a unique hotspot of geological, and biological diversity under threat from over-development. The Sustainable Tourism project by GeoTenerife is a multi-media project which aims to increase the awareness and understanding of the impacts of the mass tourism model in the Canary Islands on residents, the environment, and economic stability.  Our work is open access, in non-specialist language, and resident-focused.

Introduction to Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is defined by the UN Environment Program and UN World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”

The Canary Islands received more than 12.6 million visitors in 2022, 5.8 of which visited Tenerife, and 146,000 visited La Palma. The massive number of tourists in Tenerife, and the current hotel and tourism policies development have resulted in heavy impacts on resident satisfaction, areas of natural beauty, water resources, solid waste management, pressure on infrastructure, and a high dependence on overseas suppliers. 

However, the volcanic eruption in La Palma saw tourism to the island grind to a halt and dealt a heavy blow to this island’s economy, as the island struggles to reconstruct itself, new large-scale tourist resorts are being proposed. what will this mean for the traditional tourism model in La Palma?

Moreover, when the Canarian tourism industry was interrupted by travel restrictions imposed after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canaries experienced two months of no visitors and the subsequent closing of hotels and businesses, which highlighted the overdependence on tourism in the Canary Islands. 

The widespread implementation of sustainable tourism policies in the Canary Islands could improve the environmental and social issues caused by decades of mass tourism. Sustainable tourism in the Canary Islands will address and work to improve the environmental and social issues caused by decades of mass tourism. Methods such as supporting small businesses not run by international hotel companies, hotel companies being held responsible for their extreme water usage and pollution, and protecting areas of natural beauty. 

'Eco-Resorts' proposed for the Canary Islands

Cuna del Alma is the proposed ‘eco-resort’ promoting ‘sustainable tourism’ to be developed in the Puertito de Adeje area, Tenerife. This small coastal area is one of the few currently untouched natural spaces found in the south of the island, much of the coastline along southern Tenerife has been urbanised to meet the needs of tourists visiting the island.

Puertito de Adeje is currently unprotected and classified as ‘urbanizable’, thus leading to the Cuna del Alma project proposal. Research into the area of Puertito de Adeje is critical, to developing a greater understanding of the geology, endemic fauna, and endemic flora in the marine and terrestrial environment. 

We have worked with local, national, and international experts and institutions to analyse the impacts of the proposed resort these findings have been written up in a scientific report, and we present the highlights of this research in a highly interactive format to ensure maximum engagement. Our focus is always on the residents affected by large-scale projects of this type.

Our multimedia analysis project includes the following:

  • 3D Models of the proposed site and the marine environment
  • Timeline of El Puertito land use and the Cuna del Alma project
  • Interactive map of the Vegetation, Marine Life, and Geology in El Puertito
  • Drone footage of the marine habitat of Puertito de Adeje
  • Video interviews and testimonials from residents and experts 
  • A detailed report on the impact of this project on the people and environment 

La Palma’s tourist industry was disrupted during the Tajogaite 2021 eruption that destroyed 1,000 beds under lava flows and a further 4,000 beds in the tourist hotspot Puerto Naos have been inaccessible for 2 years due to high carbon dioxide emissions. Residents, ecologists, and left-wing parties have shown their disapproval of the proposed Eco-resort Camino Real La Pavona which they claim has the potential to overwhelm already scarce water resources, take up high-value agricultural land, and impact the biodiversity of the protected landscapes, all while green-washing itself as an ‘eco-resort’. This project will be a focus of our 2024 GeoIntern research programme. 

Current Projects

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Coming soon: La Pavona 'Eco-Resort' analysis

ERRORS AND OMMISSIONS: VolcanoStories represents our best endeavour to reflect the situation in the Canary Islands accurately, but we fully accept it may contain errors and omissions for which we apologise in advance and ask for your HELP. We encourage individuals or institutions who see an ERROR or who would like to CONTRIBUTE further material to help in this endeavour please contact us.

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