Canary Islands government wants more digital nomads despite the "housing crisis"

  • Canarian Weekly
  • 12-04-2024
  • National
  • Photo Credit: Stock Image
Canary Islands government wants more digital nomads despite the "housing crisis"

Amidst a "housing emergency" in the Canary Islands, and at a time when a large part of the local population is expressing dissatisfaction with the current tourism model, the Ministry of Tourism and Employment has announced a plan to invest 700,000 euros to attract more digital nomads to the archipelago.

A perfect storm is brewing in the Canary Islands, which has previously wreaked havoc in other parts of Spain including Barcelona and the Balearic Islands. The slowdown in the construction of new housing, the increase in the resident population, and, above all, the growth of tourism with new models such as long-term holiday rentals in residential areas have led to a social breaking point.

"Housing emergency" and the tourism model:

In February, the Government of the Canary Islands pushed through a decree law with urgent measures, but its positive effects, if any, will take time to be felt. Meanwhile, tensions are rising among the population due to difficulties in renting or purchasing housing, putting the current tourism model and phenomena such as digital nomads under scrutiny.

Evidence of this is the protests called on six of the eight islands for April 20th under the slogan "Canarias has a limit." One of the demands outlined in the manifesto is to protect access to housing for the local population by limiting the purchase of homes by non-resident foreigners.

An investment at the least opportune moment:

In this turbulent climate, the strategy defended by the Minister of Tourism and Employment, Jessica de León, in a parliamentary session on April 5th, seems ill-advised. When questioned by the deputy of the Independent Herreña Group (AHI), Raúl Acosta, the minister defended the "high added value" of digital nomads and explained that they have been working for months on a "specific plan to attract this type of tourist", with a budget of 700,000 euros funded by the Next Generation European funds.

Furthermore, De León called for a calm debate "at a time when all varieties of tourism are indiscriminately attacked, without considering the added value they bring, or not, to different islands" and emphasised that part of the strategy focuses on promoting the distribution of digital nomads on each of the islands.

In this regard, Acosta admitted that "the phenomenon of digital nomads is undoubtedly controversial", as it has been mixed with other "very controversial phenomena such as holiday rentals, the ‘touristification’ of residential properties, and carrying capacity", putting strain on the capital islands (Gran Canaria and Tenerife) and the eastern ones (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote). However, he supports the Ministry's strategy because he believes that digital nomads are beneficial for smaller destinations like El Hierro.

Canary Islands government wants more digital nomads despite the
Angry graffiti in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Source: Tourinews)

Digital nomad figures:

During this exchange, the minister also highlighted that, in 2022, more than 86,000 people teleworked temporarily from the Canary Islands, resulting in "tourism revenue" exceeding 167 million euros. De León described that part of the added value of the "long-stay tourist", around 28 days on average, is the leisure consumption they engage in and their greater integration and interaction with the local population.

Despite enquiries to the Ministry for more details on the alleged added value of these foreign workers and whether the benefits they generate outweigh their social impact, no response has been given at this time.