Published On: Sat, Jan 27th, 2024

Canary Islands tourists facing new airport charge as holiday hotspot under threat | World | News

The Canary Islands are one of the destinations most beloved by British tourists, welcoming every year millions of tourists from the UK.

Locals acknowledge the massive role tourism plays in their economy – and are afraid a new airport charge approved by the central government in Madrid may hurt their wealth.

As it emerged last week, Aena, the state-owned company managing airports and heliports in Spain, proposed a 4.09 percent increase in airport taxes.

Despite protests from the Canary Islands government, the tourist sector and airlines, Madrid approved Anea’s proposal and announced it would be enforced from March 1.

The Spanish Minister of Transport and Sustainable Mobility, Óscar Puente, defended the decision to implement this new tax hike by saying his country still has the “lowest rates” in Europe as well as the “best airports and those that work the best”.

Despite this increase, he added, fees continue to be one percent cheaper than before the pandemic, in 2019.

The minister added that “incentives and elements that may be interesting for airlines” will be approved, particularly to boost international traffic to regional airports.

The reassurances didn’t convince either the Spanish Airline Association (ALA) – which had asked for fees to either be frozen or increased by a maximum of 1.5 percent – or the Canary Islands.

The President of the Canary Island Federation, Oswaldo Betancort, said the archipelago rejected this tax rise, arguing the territory needs an exemption due to its location and nature.

Attending an extraordinary assembly as part of the Madrid International Tourism Trade Fair, Mr Betancort said: “A territory like the Canary Islands in the middle of the Atlantic cannot live in isolation and requires a special distinction as an outermost region.”

The fear is that a tax rise could make the region less competitive in the market and that the new costs will be passed on by airlines to tourists.

All the representatives at the meeting agreed to put up a common front against the fare hike – a goal approved also by the government of the Canary Islands.

Mr Betancort added: “Although our territory is fragmented, and each island has its own singularities, those of us who form part of this assembly are well aware that only through our union, we will achieve the progress we seek for each of our island territories and therefore for the whole of Canarian society.”

The regional government of the Canary Islands also lamented Madrid’s decision to approve Aena’s proposal.

Director General of Transport María Fernández said: “There is no plan B with other alternative means of transport, the airports are strategic and should be exempt from the increase in taxes.”

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