Tenerife targets US tourists in drive to promote the island as an exclusive luxury destination

Tenerife is often referred to as the 'Hawaii of Europe'.
Tenerife is often referred to as the 'Hawaii of Europe'. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Rachel K Belkin with Wealth of Geeks via AP
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The largest of the Canary Islands is looking to high-spending visitors to combat overtourism.


American tourists are flocking to Tenerife in record numbers. 5.6 million tourists visited the Spanish island in 2023, and more than 26,000 came from the United States between January and September of 2023.

This marks a significant 35 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022 and a 51 per cent growth over the 2022 summer. These figures are more than double the number of US visitors from January to September 2019.

Tenerife, already known as a luxury destination for Europeans, attracts around 5 million tourists annually. Tourists from the United Kingdom comprise the largest segment, surpassing visitors from Spain’s mainland. 

Often lovingly referred to as the 'Hawaii of Europe' due to its vibrant culture and beautiful landscapes, the island has been eyeing the North American market with Tenerife Tourism launching a campaign in 2022 to enhance its visibility there.

Tenerife is promoting luxury experiences

At the December 2023 congress of the United States Association of Tour Operators (USTOA), Tenerife Vice President and Tourism Advisor Lope Afonso spoke passionately about the island’s commitment to the North American market. He emphasised the importance of enhancing connectivity and refining tourism offerings to prioritise quality experiences over sheer numbers of visitors.

Alfonso highlighted the island’s diversity beyond the famous beaches and sunny weather, aiming to showcase its appeal to American travellers. With a focus on providing memorable experiences and opportunities for high-quality spending, Tenerife aims to establish itself as a top-choice destination, promising increased profitability.

In line with this vision, United Airlines reintroduced seasonal nonstop flights to Tenerife from Newark, New Jersey, starting 1 June 2024. These flights operate three times a week until 25 September 2024, and aim to improve connectivity and cater to the growing American travel demand. 

Tenerife Tourism’s ultimate goal is to enhance the island’s connectivity and allure by kick-starting year-round nonstop connections for American travellers.

Tenerife’s push for sustainable tourism

Tenerife’s year-round sunshine, diverse landscapes, and charming historic villages offer a variety of attractions and activities tailored to every type of traveler.

John Jairo Cortes, a driver for Transalex transport company in Tenerife, highlights one of the island’s captivating features: its diverse microclimates. Cortes explains, “If you want a cold climate, you go to the north, or a hot climate, you go to the south.”

From Michelin-starred restaurants and luxurious 5-star hotels to UNESCO landmarks and thrilling adventure sports, Tenerife blends sustainability and luxury in its commitment to tourism sustainability. Tenerife has earned the Biosphere certification, accrediting its status as an internationally recognised sustainable destination.

Becoming a licensed tour guide in the Canary Islands is no small feat. Jaime Muñoz, tour guide and founder of Feel Tenerife, is passionate about sustainable tourism. Muñoz sheds light on the rigorous process of becoming a tour guide in Tenerife, explaining, “Tour guides must pass an annual exam that tests knowledge about nature, culture, geology, history, touristic resources and touristic law for all the eight Canary Islands.”

La Orotava, Tenerife.
La Orotava, Tenerife.Canva

American tourist numbers are rising in Tenerife

Muñoz has noticed an increase in American travellers following the start of direct flights by United Airlines. Certified tour guide Jean-Guy Le Roux confirms a notable uptick in American tourists seeking bird-watching tours as well.

Observations from locals working in Tenerife’s tourism industry echo the trend of increasing American visitors. Hotel Botánico, a lush 5-star hotel in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, has hosted a few famous American visitors. Luis Zamora Toste, Hotel Botánico Sales Executive, proudly shares, “We had a visit from Michael Jackson in 1993 when he performed a concert on our island. We have also had President Bill Clinton and famous actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Henry Cavill, and Jake Gyllenhaal.”

He further notes, “With the United Airlines flight, we have noticed a great increase in American tourists, to the point that last year it became our 4th largest market (after UK, Germany, and Spain).” However, Zamora Toste believes extending the duration of the seasonal direct flight service would yield substantial benefits.

Various initiatives have been introduced to strengthen the US as a preferred Tenerife tourism market, from participation in luxury travel conferences in the States to hosting journalists and travel agents in an effort to promote the destination.

Quality over quantity: Tenerife's struggle with mass tourism

Tenerife is the largest of Spain's Canary Islands. The archipelago has a conflicted relationship with the millions of tourists that reach its shores each year.

In recent months, protests have erupted over the influx of visitors, which locals say is pushing up rent and housing prices and forcing some people onto the streets.


Graffiti has appeared on buildings and a rental car telling tourists to 'go home' and some demonstrators in Tenerife organised a hunger strike over the issue.

In April, calls came to temporarily freeze tourist arrivals to allow the islands to get a handle on the situation.

By positioning itself as a more exclusive, luxury destination, Tenerife aims to limit overtourism and pave a more sustainable future for travel on the island.

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