Constitutional court backs Canarian tourism law

Update 2 July: The Canarian government said yesterday that the Constitutional Court has backed its tourism law and lifted the suspension imposed when Madrid appealed Article 4.2, a) and c) of the Canarian tourist law as unconstitutional. The clauses being appealed were specifically concerned with the requirement in the law for hotel and tourist apartments to be of 5* quality or greater.

The court said that contrary to Madrid’s claim that the Canarian government’s law was restrictive by limiting new developments, the law in fact gave full scope for them, provided they were of the permitted luxury quality, and that the alleged economic damage from the prohibition of 4* or lower quality accomodation could not, of itself, arise from the clauses requiring tourist accommodation to be of 5* or higher quality.

Fernando Rios, regional commissioner for the Development of Self-Government and Institutional Reforms, welcomed the Court’s decision and the reinstatement of the whole of last year’s new tourism law. Commissioner Rios said that the court’s decision confirmed the Canarian government’s view that the appeal had been politically motivated, and its right to legislate regionally in accordance with its own tourism policy. He regretted the delay that the appeal had caused, and the investments that had been jeopardised for the construction of new luxury developments.

Sr Rios also confirmed that the promised assessment and evaluation of the new legislation is being undertaken at this present moment, and reiterated the Government’s willingness to talk to all involved in tourism in the Canary Islands to ensure that the reviewed law is the best possible vehicle to carry out the government’s policy of renovation and modernization.

Update 21 February: And Madrid will, after all, issue an appeal against the Canarian tourism law. The Consejo de Ministros has approved the presentation of an appeal againstArticle 4.2, a) and c) of the Canarian tourist law as unconstitutional. The clauses being appealed are specifically concerned with the requirement in the law for hotel and tourist apartments in Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife to be of 5* quality or greater.

Madrid, however, considers that such restriction is not an “environmental” or “territorial” issue, as stated in the Canarian law, but an economic one and thus violates legislation providing free access to and provision of services within the EU internal market. The national government argues that in this respect, the requirement for legal tourist accommodation to be exclusively of such a standard limits access to tourism, a restriction banned under Article 10.e ) of free access legislation.

Given the arguments that have raged in the past about “Bolkestein”, I would draw particular attention to the fact that there is absolutely no issue here, nor mention of or reference to, accommodation currently considered illegal. Indeed Madrid recognizes utterly the Canaries’ absolute right to ban holiday letting in residential properties, and to require privately owned tourist accommodation to be let through a sole agent.

Original post 17 February: Spain’s minister for Industria, Energía y Turismo, Canarian José Manuel Soria, has said that after talks failed to get the Canarian government to modify last year’s Canarian tourism law, the national Government  might present an appeal against it on the grounds of unconstitutionality. Sr Soria, speaking at the Confederación Canaria de Empresarios (CCE), said that the law in its current form contravenes the Spanish constitution, let alone European law.

The focal point of tension is the situation of hotels in Gran Canaria especially, where the authorities do not want to be limited to luxury 4 or 5 star. Sr Soría said he wholly approved of some measures in the Canarian law, notably those concerning renovation, but that the restriction on mid-range hotels goes against basic Canarian, Spanish and European principles of economic liberty. He stressed that although Madrid recognized absolutely the Canaries’ right to legislate on its own tourism matters, it had to abide within rights bestowed by national and international freedoms to provide services.

Let us remember three things. First, that this is a minister of the very government that is imposing similar tightened tourism measures nationally! Secondly, that he is himself a Canarian who is at daggers drawn with the beleaguered president of this region, Paulino Rivero, who is struggling to maintain support for his reelection bid among his own party, let alone the electorate! Thirdly, there is no suggestion here that the “freedoms” being demanded refer to anything other than the rights of lower-star hotels; indeed there has been nothing but controversy for months now over the new legislation’s bans on (particularly) the construction of 3* hotels in Gran Canaria.

The eastern province considers Tenerife, with its preponderance of 4 and 5* luxury hotels to be unfairly advantaged by the legislation and upmarket drive, and thinks that the regional government should not be imposing a one size fits all policy on the islands as a whole. Within these contexts, it is hard to see the remarks of Sr Soría – himself from the eastern province – other than in the light of a PP national politician having a dig at an opposition party president, a former regional political sparring partner of his with whom there is very little love lost, and all in order to highlight what is widely seen in the east as a grossly unfair territorial advantage for Tenerife in the Canarian law. Let us also remember that the Canarian government gave itself a year for its legislation to “settle”. We will know later this year what its own view is of the success of the legislation, and what movement will follow, and who will benefit.


  1. It is not that, as you state and I feel that saying “it is the lower end tourist”, is a bit of an insult to holidaymakers who prefer apartments and also my and other owners with 5* apartments.
    Just think how much more money Tenerife could of had in its coffers if they were not ruled by the Ashotel lobby and the outrageous uncontrolled sole agents.

    As for the Interest, following the initial fines was it not Alocota who fought the cause to lower them, unfortunately nowhere near the 1500 euro banded at the time , have not the Tenerife Govt had our money in the bank for over 12 months without being found guilty, I think along with many other owners who are yet to receive these obscene demands that they do not want us in their country, and I for one can not wait to sell up and leave. The law is not just here, when you are found guilty without proof, for something you have not done

    1. Author

      Quoting the government, IDBI, not my own phrase … they have used phrases like high-end and lower-end tourism, quality customer base …
      Yes to the fight to lower the fines, but the interest is a legal issue. And I have to take issue with you about the 1,500 “banded at the time”. We have managed (or at least the lawyers have) to get the vast majority of fines appealed nullified completely. Not just reduced, but wiped out because the cases were thrown out! Those that remain will attract interest, and that is not the Canarian government’s fault, but the Spanish system.
      I feel like I’m coming across here as defending the government at all costs, and that is not a true reflection of my position. I feel they are doing much wrong. But we will get nowhere if we fling accusations around wildly, including those which are not properly laid at their door.

  2. If the Canaries have had such a good year for tourists, why are the unemployment figures still so terrible in the local communities, Yes the hotels may have more bookings but is that because of apartment unavailability which of course Ashotel want. But does it help the Islands in the long term, after all aren’t most of hotels not owned by Canarian companies so any profit is going abroad.

    Also have you heard the latest blood sucking actions of the Tenerife Govt, if you loose your case in the courts even if you have been accused of doing something that they have no proof of, because there is none, and don’t forget you have not right of appeal if the fine is under 30,000 euro they are now going to charge you Interest on the fine from the date of its issue upto the date of the Presidents decision, hows that for rewarding people who have invested in their country?

    1. Author

      because Spain is in big trouble, IDBI, and everything has taken a hit. It is only the successful tourism figures that have stopped the Canaries going down the pan altogether. Every other sector here is virtually bust, whether construction, bananas, tomatoes …
      There is also an inconsistency in your argument here. As you’ve said repeatedly, and I agree, We know the tourism markets for apartments and hotels are different. The fact is that the luxury-end tourists are coming in ever greater numbers even as the lower end falls away. It is not the old apartment clients switching to 5* hotels.
      In respect to interest on fines, maybe I’m misunderstanding you but it has always been the case that judicial interest has been charged on outstanding fines (that’s a Spanish, not a Canarian – let alone a Tenerife – system).

  3. Could’nt organise a “piss up” in a brewery, and in the meantime it is only producing a bunch of little hitlers whom don’t actually own the community apartments, but think that they do, and then think they can pay the owners 50 EUROS A WEEK, and that they are doing them a favour.
    Poloticians need to get their heads out of their backsides and see the damage they are doing to the tourist industry, GET REAL, people.

    1. Author

      They would say, of course, with some justification, that the Canaries have just spent a year beating all tourist records into a cocked hat and things look like continuing to improve. There are clearly issues with some sole agents, but that is not “policy”, and we can but hope that some amendments will make their way into last year’s new law that is currently under evaluation.

  4. Author

    No. The specific clauses being appealed are about the restriction of new building licences for hotels and touristic apartments of 5* and above. As I said in the original post, this is an argument that’s been raging between the two provinces on “luxury hotel” provision. And it is rooted, in part, in the mutual antipathy between Madrid’s tourism minister and the Canarian president.

  5. Hi, is there any mention of the residential / holiday private rental at all.

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