December 8, 2021

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Tourists flock to La Palma to watch the eruption of the volcano

One of the consequencesvolcanic eruption It began last September 19 on the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, where every weekend the main viewpoints are filled with tourists who come to enjoy the rare sight offered by the plume of smoke, ash and lava flow. Hotels are full and there are a few free seats on the flights and ferries that connect La Palma to the rest of the archipelago. The influx of people wanting to watch the eruption is partly helping to tackle the crisis that has wracked the tourism sector during the pandemic, but it is unlikely to be a long-term solution to a problem that has already had rather disastrous consequences.

To encourage tourism, some tour companies on Tenerife, another Canary island, organize excursions that cost around 100 euros and include ship transfers, local bus trips to the volcano’s main observation points, and a meal at a restaurant in La Palma. . Likes Tells Newspaper, is a way to help tour guides who are no longer able to work in closed areas due to the eruption of the volcano and to give a helping hand to local businesses, which despite the large influx on weekends do not work well.

Country Tell How the parish of the Sagrada Familia, about one kilometer from the eruption area, became one of the most famous tourist centers of La Palma. Until just over a month ago, the nearby streets were very quiet, but now they are full of people wanting to photograph the volcano which has made this area crowded and noisy. The same is happening at other observation points from which the plume of smoke can be clearly seen, such as the view of time, closest to the west coast of the island.

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There are not only tourists from abroad, but also residents of the Canary Islands who have never had the opportunity to see a direct volcanic eruption: the last one at the surface in the archipelago was the Tinguia volcano, also in La Palma, in 1971; In 2011 there was a submarine A Iron, the smallest island in the Canary Islands.

(Marcos del Mazo/Getty Images)

La Palma is one of the westernmost and least touristic islands in the Canary Islands, with a population of about 80,000, and much of its economy is based on agriculture that exploits fertile volcanic soil. Like the entire archipelago, it has been greatly affected by the epidemic. according toAnalytics From the Canary Institute of Statistics, in January 2020, there were about 8 thousand beds available on the island, and now there are less than 5 thousand.

If hotels are full on weekends, it is partly because many tourist facilities have closed in the wake of the crisis caused by the pandemic. In addition, there are those that were evacuated due to the eruption, such as the Sol Hotel in Puerto de Naos, which is located two kilometers south of the point where lava began between September 28 and 29. pour into the sea.

In addition to supply, excluding weekends, demand has also decreased: Carlos García Cecilia, who runs some of the island’s tourist facilities, told nation The occupancy rate of hotels on weekdays is 30-40 per cent, and therefore “people work at a loss”.

According to Garcia Cecilia, The situation largely depends on tOur operator, which cancels a large number of medium and long-term tourist flights and is staying in anticipation of possible transport restrictions: La Palma airport is currently open, but due to weather conditions, flights to the domestic airport continue to be halved.

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García Cecilia added: “The prospects are unknown” and depends on how long the volcano will continue to erupt: but how He said A few days ago, the head of the regional government of the Canary Islands said “at the moment there are no indications that the end of the eruption is imminent”. However, in the last hours part of the volcanic cone collapsed, causing more lava flows and more than 80 earthquakes from Sunday to today.

Newspaper He says that part of the population of La Palma is disturbed by the presence of tourists, who were attracted by a natural disaster that destroyed nearly two thousand buildings and displaced thousands of people; On the other hand, shops and tour companies need them to survive. Some hoteliers and supermarket employees said weekend tourism is worthwhile, but it makes much less difference than staying a week or more, which they now lack.

Astrophysicist Ana Garcia, who has a food tour company in La Palma and writes for daily a purpose Titled “The Ethics of a Selfie with a Volcano in the Background”.

According to Garcia, tourism associated with the eruption is a good thing, provided that “the tourist stays on the island, visits other places, and observes the volcano from a distance from the population that is more involved and contributes to the local economy.” Economy La Palma “Needs tourists for economic recovery, but good tourism […]that generate wealth that respects the environment and its people and that can be sustainable.”