The eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano attracted tens of thousands of visitors to La Palma in October and early November. Boat and plane tickets were practically all sold out for several dates, according to data from the Center for Initiatives and Tourism of Tedote, collected by the local newspaper El Tiempo.
Tourism represents more than 20 percent of La Palma’s GDP, and the average occupancy rate has fallen from 70 to 40 percent since the beginning of the eruption, which has forced businessmen in this sector to request government aid.
Demand for volcano-themed tours there has soared as tourists flock to see for themselves the aftermath of an eruption that lasted 85 days. Yahoo News reports that for tour company Get Holiday, business is booming. “For me it’s like gold. It’s a golden future because a lot of people ask to discover La Palma at the moment,” Company founder, Basso Lanzone. Get Holiday runs 11-hour trips around the volcano from nearby Tenerife.
For several days, La Palma had a hotel capacity of 99%, as reported by Booking.com. In addition to tourists, the island was also filled with security forces, emergency personnel, scientists and journalists.
In September, the outlook was very different. Hotel employers complained that the volcanic crisis was paralyzing tourist reservations and reducing occupancy to 15%. The president of the Center for Initiatives and Tourism of Tedote, Óscar León, celebrated that the visits would generate “a very good occupancy within the circumstances and compared to previous weeks”.
According to Reuters, Spain’s government announced last week a 9.5-million-euro ($10.85 million) plan to promote local tourism after arrivals more than halved in the last four months of 2021. The head of La Palma’a local government believes the interest in the eruption could help the island diversify from agriculture.
Despite the heavy dependency on tourism, not everyone on the island is happy that the eruption caused the influx of so many visitors. The island cut off access to all the viewpoints, after the police were unhappy with the massive arrivals, which generated more traffic than usual on the roads. Tourists eager to portray the volcano made every parking lot, embankment or terrace they could find an improvised viewpoint.
Many of the island’s inhabitants who have lost their homes are now unable to find houses to rent, according to a report published by the newspaper El País. Most are in second homes, houses of neighbors, relatives or friends and those who do not, in tourist establishments on a temporary basis.
The lava affected more than a thousand buildings, mainly houses, of which some 900 have been destroyed, and more than 5,500 people had to be evacuated. A Belgian tourist told EuroNews that attending the eruption was “something fantastic and a very strong experience, although I understand that it is a very difficult situation for those who live here”.