Update 16 June: As I said in the last post on 2 June, the new law is under attack. And to give an idea of the type of attack it’s under, today the national government minister for Industry, Energy and Tourism, and president of the Canarian PP (conservative party), José Manuel Soria, himself a Canarian, has laid into it in the strongest terms. It’s a “fraud” for the tourism sector and the Canaries themselves, he said.
Referring to the eastern province’s claims that the Tenerife hotel sector was being favoured over that of Gran Canaria, Sr Soria said that the law wasn’t a fraud that shows preference to one part of the Canaries over another, but in a far wider sense it was a fraud in respect of the archipelago as a whole. In terms of the law’s very title, which includes the word modernization, he said that there is nothing more opposed to modernization than the establishment of obstacles and restrictions in the tourism sector.
He expressed the opinion, too, that each island, through its Cabildo, should be allowed to determine its own tourism priorities and promotions, “without the “guardianship” of any regional administration. Sr Soria reminded the conference of the regional PP that 2013 was the year in which the Cabildos, democratically elected, celebrated their centenary: what’s with the Canarian Government’s obsession and mistrust about the powers and jurisdiction of the Cabildos, he asked. Sr Soria closed by asking the Canarian Government to reflect on the enormous damage such anti-competitive laws can do, and insisted that what the islands needed was the best hotels for tourists themselves to decide where they want to stay.
I think many will agree with him, though it should be noted that he himself is still talking in terms of hotels. It should also be borne in mind that there is not the best of historical blood between him and Canarian President Paulino Rivero. None the less, it’s good to hear a voice, albeit a Canarian one, speaking from the national seat of power. This is Madrid calling …
Update 2 June: The ink is hardly dry on the paper, and I’ve not yet even had a chance to settle down to look at the clauses in detail, but already the new law is under attack. There are the usual interest groups seeing the legislation wrongheaded in almost every way from favouritism for Tenerife province over that of Las Palmas, to restrictive practices, violations of EU law, etc. The debate on this will rumble on and on, I suspect, and some argue that the law will hardly last a year before it has to be redrafted.
In my own opinion, the law is indeed clearly restrictive. Whether this is permissible within the terms of the EU seems clear – it is. That at least is the current opinion of many if not most judges here and two previous EU rulings. Whether it’s legally valid, though, is for me less of an issue than whether it’s effective. It seems to me that the restrictions are still so great, and the focus on hotel accommodation so marked, that the authorities really haven’t got the measure of their own market, and are failing significantly in understanding that what really matters is not the Canaries, but what tourists want.
This is the view, too, of Sergio Moreno of the Instituto Universitario de Turismo y Desarrollo Económico Sostenible (Tides). He says that this legislation is based on an important conceptual failure because the government is focusing the debate on the territory rather than the tourists. Sr Moreno argues that the whole controversy about numbers of stars – a detailed debate over whether 4* hotels should be allowed in addition to 5* ones ending in the decision that they were not allowed as newbuilds but allowed as renovation projects – was pretty senseless since it is services offered, rather than number of stars, that is the real indication of quality.
I can do no better than repeat his conclusion: what is important is not the territory itself, but the industry’s own adaptation to tourists, and to do this, you have to specialize. You can have a 5* hotel all you like but if it isn’t following and adapting to the market of the moment, its stars are of no value whatsoever.
Update 29 May: As expected, the new tourism legislation was approved yesterday. I will post details as soon as possible …
Update 24 May: The Canarian government yesterday approved clauses for the new law so as to provide a framework within which more than 5,000 villas in the Canaries that are currently residential will be able to be used touristically; moreover, their plots will be reclassified at Government level, thus bypassing where necessary individual Cabildo restrictions and Ayuntamiento land usage designations. The law will also considerably reduce the “coastal band” for villa legitimacy: the Government had been aiming for a 500m exlusion area but this has now been reduced to 200m, and even further to 100m if in a clifftop area. Lanzarote, which is where around half of the properties affected are located, is likely to benefit especially from the measure.
The final debate on the legislation is scheduled to take place this coming Tuesday. This is something that Alotca has lobbied actively for, and continued to negotiate about even though much of the work was carried out in the background. Although we’ll have to wait until at least Tuesday for the final detail, needless to say we are absolutely delighted with this news.
Update 11 April: The new law is still mired in Parliament. Today we’ve learned that the Canarian Socialist and nationalist groups will be presenting separate amendments to the Bill. The main reason for posting something of such little immediate import is to show the two main issues that are causing problems right now … and neither is concerned with the matters that would concern most readers here, I imagine. The first is the nature of the role of Cabildos and Ayuntamientos in modernisation plans, and the other is that of the categories permitted in newly created tourist establishments. There is also dispute over whether to include 4* establishments in the moratorium. There is still no sign of when this will be translated into law.
Update 7 February 2013: The moratorium will be, as I posted below last September, enshrined in law and “indefinite” once the new law comes into force. The legislation passed its first parliamentary process yesterday, with the total rejection of all opposition amendments. The opposition, and amendments, had argued that the new legislation was interventionist, and ignored completely island cabildos and local Ayuntamientos. All such arguments were dismissed. Environment and Regional Policy Minister Domingo Berriel said that this was going to be a permanent law to regulate the growth of the tourism sector, and that any problems in its imposition would, as was the case with any law, be dealt with in the normal course of events and in the normal manner. “Call this interventionist if you like”, said Sr Berriel, “but this strategic activity must be regulated”. Sr Berriel confirmed that the new law will act to correct residentialism, something that had been very negative for tourist areas. The word he uses is “reconducir”. I’ve translated “act to correct”, but could equally have used “redirect”. Once again it is far from clear what the government has in mind in this respect, which is of such great interest to those who own property of any type in tourist areas. I’ve posted previously on other measures in the bill, so won’t repeat them here, but it’s worth mentioning that Sr Berriel insisted that no more land would be classified for tourist use, “because there is enough available”. The bill now continues its way through Parliament, with the first hurdle cleared.
Original post 22 September 2012: The Canarian Government has sent the draft new tourism law, the Ley de Renovación y Modernización Turística de Canarias, to the Consultative Committee for consultation. I haven’t seen the full draft yet myself, but the Government has asked for a speedy response: as we know, the new law must be on the statute books in December at the latest because the touristic moratorium was extended in May only until the end of the year. What the Government has formally announced at this point, though, is that the law has as a primary objective the renovation and modernization of touristic urbanizations, areas and products; the diversification of its touristic offer; and authorizations in 2013 and 2014 for 5* hotels in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Once this period is over, new licences will be considered for establishments under 5* as long as they provide luxury places tied to renovation projects or replace obsolete beds. Construction team employment must significantly favour those who are registered as unemployed. Existing restrictions outside of these criteria are to be maintained indefinitely. Recognizing the criticism of this stance in some quarters, the Government says that whether people agree with this or not, this is the Government’s model and decision, and that the new law does away with the need to keep renewing the existing touristic moratorium which can now be considered to be enshrined in law. The fundamental objects of the legislation are:
- to manage and organize the growth of the touristic offer, tying this to quality improvement both in terms of renovation and new build
- to increase quality levels and the category of touristic establishments
- to avoid, and if appropriate, redirect the residentialisation of touristic areas
- to provide the Government with effective juridical mechanisms to incentivise and, as appropriate, ensure compliance with conservation, renovation and effective use requirements
- to restore the image of touristic areas
The new law envisages the possibility of touristic licences being awarded in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote only for:
- the renovation of existing touristic establishments
- the implementation of touristic places based on rights deriving from renovation projects
- hotels on approved urban non-touristic land (suelo urbano consolidado) and rural hotels
- hotels of a minimum 5* category
- non-hotel accommodation where planning rules expressly permit, or do not prohibit, it, with a minimum 5* category in respect of apartments
- specialist accommodation establishments
The new plans will complement, and in some cases replace, existing urban designations in order to make urban renovation more viable. They will also include new formats in touristic organization such as the condominium – based on the American model – and touristic villas, the latter being at least 500 metres from the coast, of a density of between 10 and 40 units per hectare depending on overall plot size, and which do not exceed 20% of the surface area concerned. In addition, a procedure is envisaged to regularize and authorize accommodation establishments which have existing licences from before Ley 19/2003, and which comply with all requirements necessary to be considered touristic establishments. With regard to incentives for renovation, the law includes measures for financial incentives and additional places – up to 50% for hotels and 25% for apartments, except where:
- the category will be lower than 3*
- the conversion is from a hotel to a non-hotel establishment
- when the conversion is from a non-hotel to a hotel establishment that does not convert the regimen of horizontal property to one of ordinary ownership or co-ownership