Business: Six reasons why the Canary Islands are so much more than a holiday destination

To many people, the Canary Islands conjure up images of sunshine, holidays and beaches. So it is no surprise the archipelago attracted more than 13 million tourists last year.

Business: Six reasons why the Canary Islands are so much more than a holiday destination
All photos provided by Sociedad Canaria de Fomento Económico

However the Spanish archipelago off the west African coast is proving an attractive destination to more than just tourists.

And here's why:

Hollywood calling

During film of Vacaciones con amigos. Photo by Daniell Bohnhof 

The tropical forests, volcanic landscapes and beautiful beaches mean film makers are spoilt for choice for backdrops.

Some films made on the islands recently include  Jason Bourne, starring Matt Damon, Allied, with Marion Cotillard, Clash of the Titans and The Wrath of the Titans, starring Rosamund Pike, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson.

Because in an industry in which shooting film costs millions, the financial incentives to working in the Canaries are generous.

Tax breaks

Film makers stand to benefit from a corporate tax rate of 4 percent compared with the European Union average of 22.5 percent.

To add to that, there is a cash-back scheme which means film companies can claim back between 30-40 percent of the cost of their investments from the Spanish government.

This is not because the Canary Islands are a tax haven, but because they are classified by the European Union as an Outermost Region so merit these fiscal advantages.

Sun, sea and wind

Companies involved in the renewable energy sector can also qualify for the same low tax rates, that are designed to diversify the islands' economy away from tourism.

For the renewable sector this is a particularly good perk.

The islands enjoy 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, which means almost seven hours per day all year long. Photovoltaic installations operate for more than 1,700 hours per year. 

The archipelago is battered by Trade Winds with average speeds of 6 to 8 m/s, which make wind farm yields between 3,000 and 4,500 equivalent hours.

In particular, the Canary Islands, have proved particularly attractive for pioneering floating wind farms.

As these are volcanic islands, geothermal is another form of energy which is undergoing research on the islands.

Experts hope that the Canary Islands may before too long become self-sufficient in renewable energy.

El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, is close to becoming the first island in the world to become fully self-sufficient for renewable electrical energy.

To achieve this, the 268-square-kilometre island has installed five wind turbines, two water deposits, four hydraulic turbines and a pumping station in order to make the energy it requires, even when the wind is not blowing.

Gran Canaria, a much bigger and more populated island, is already moving forward to install a similar system.

Proximity to Africa

Another plus are the islands' geographic closeness to Africa which also makes the archipelago a unique stepping stone to operate in the neighbouring continent.

Rolls Royce repairs oil rigs in the islands instead of shipping them back to continental Europe, which is more costly.

Post-Brexit perks

For the tech start-ups and R&D companies, the generous tax environment make it an attractive place to invest.

In the post-Brexit world, British companies may want to keep a toe-hold in Europe and the Canary Islands offer a good quality of life plus a pro-business environmennt.

Plus there's easy connectivity and it's in the same time-zone as UK

There are at least 400 flights from the UK per week, some from minor British airports, so the islands are well connected.

And for those with families looking to relocate from Britiain to keep a foothold in Europe, the Canary Islands offers an established British community with a series of international schools and a welcome face for anyone who does not speak Spanish.

Welcoming authorities

Elena Mañez, the Canary Islands' economy and employment minister, said: “The islands are, without any doubt, one of the most attractive places to invest in Europe today, not only for our best-in-class tax incentives, but also for natural conditions, top safety and unique capacity to attract and retain talent.”


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Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?