In a recent interview with Diario de Avisos newspaper, José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga, Adeje’s mayor, spoke of the changes he has seen in his many years in public service and how tourism has led to unprecedented growth in South Tenerife. “The southern boroughs are beginning to get some recognition – late though that is. However no-one could have foreseen the changes that tourism would bring to the south. And this part of the island has been neglected in three particular areas which now cause huge problems: connectivity, with the problems with Tenerife South airport; mobility, affecting roads and motorways; and health with the on-going demand for a fully functional public hospital in the south to meet the needs of the local population.
“We have other issues, such as water and water treatment and matters that we, as councils, are resolving bit by bit. But in the other regard we are not simply talking about problems that affect South Tenerife. These are Tenerife’s problems, the Canarias’ problems because we are part of a bigger whole. So solving these problems is solving them for everyone. Connectivity, mobility, health care”.
The mayor stated that all three of these mentioned problems indicate a serious lack of planning and that the development of the affected boroughs and areas hasn’t received the kind of attention it merited and merits. “We are operating with a distinct kind of situation whereby we have to be able to provide services to numbers of residents much greater that those who figure on the census. In the case of Adeje, for example, at times we have four times the registered number of inhabitants (due to tourism) and those numbers need to be reflected when it comes to allocating budgets and financial aid nationally, as we are working to meet the needs of up to 200,000 persons who also generate waste materials, need services and have specific and concrete demands”.
On the issue of the airport, and following the 8-hour closure earlier in the year due to a burst airplane wheel, he pointed out, “I am confident that together with the Tenerife Cabildo, the regional government and the other affected council, we can go hand in hand to the national government to state our case. It’s not about nice words nor is it enough to solely consider this worthy of attention when there is a problem. Those of us who rely upon the tourism sector know the urgent need for some solution to this problem, and have been aware of this for many years. A new runway and terminal have to be priorities. At the moment there is no ‘Plan B’ if something happens to close the runway. The airport would have to close causing incalculable damage to the destination. Those thousands who do come here already have to leave their hotels up to five hours before their flight to ensure they arrive on time, given the traffic jams on the motorway. Then they are asked to wait for their flights in a terminal that is not built to deal with to cater for the numbers of passengers who use it daily.”
The mayor was asked to consider the unprecedented transformation of Adeje given the growth of tourism in the region. And given recent protests in certain tourist destinations in Spain it was of interest that he pointed out the council had and continues to hold in equal part the importance of the quality of life of the resident of Adeje as well as that of the tourist. “Many people are involved here, from the companies who chose Adeje as a destination, to the residents of the borough who have worked to adapt and accept the phenomenon of tourism. And from the council we have worked to adjust to ensure that things work in harmony, from meeting the needs of tour operators to the daily needs of our residents, who are so important as we are generating a wealth that is directed towards our people. I do think we have been successful in this regard and we will continue along these lines”.
The mayor also made specific reference to the work done to increase the advantages tourism brings to a local populace, while at the same time protecting the natural environment and the things that mark Adeje out as different. “From the start our principal has been that the resources that have generated such high levels of tourism have to been maintained, looked after. We are also creating employment, generating wealth in emerging subsectors and seeing new job creation opportunities created. We have a low unemployment level (7%) and are a source of employment for many from all over the island and beyond. However we will continue to work to ensure that the distribution of the benefits of tourism is widespread”. The council has worked with the University of La Laguna, for instance, to develop the third level Tourism Degree (two graduating classes to date). “In the coming years we want to encourage more training and specialisation and create more and better opportunities for everyone”, the mayor continued. “Given this economic resource we can create new social opportunities, improve our cultural offer, move ahead in projects that promote social harmony and integration as well as encourage sustainable development on all fronts”.