Greek locals launch sunbed war as illegal firms capitalise on tourism

Angry Greek locals launch sunbed war on British tourist hotspots in bid to stop holidaymakers from taking over pristine beaches and racing to reserve rows of sun loungers

  • Top Greek politicians have pledged to crack down on illegal sunbed operators 

Greek coastal crusaders have declared a sunbed war on British tourist hotspots, pledging to fight back against the ‘abusive occupation’ of sunspot beaches.

The so-called ‘Towel Movement’ was set up in Paros by jaded residents, tired of not being able to find a free space on local beaches due to aggressive sunbed firms.

They say that illegal operators have been rinsing holidaymakers, who are paying over the odds to secure a spot – and leaving nowhere locals to go.

Campaigners were pictured in July marching on Aegean shores with hand-painted banners reading, ‘reclaim the beach: Paros citizens movement for free beaches’.

As the movement spreads to other islands, Kostis Hatzidakis, the Minister of National Economy and Finance, has now ordered police to up patrols in popular areas and crush illegal operations, pledging: ‘We will not give up the beaches to anyone.’

The Save Paros Beaches group marched over concerns about illegal sunbed operators 

Tourists  in Paros make the most of paid umbrellas and sunbeds. A VIP experience cost €120

Residents march on Paros beaches amid concerns over limited space for locals 

The Towel Movement began with frustrated residents in Paros, in the Cyclades, complaining they were unable to swim or sunbathe as tourists descended.

Last summer, UK travellers led the visitor league tables in Greece as some 4.5mn sought sun, sand and souvlaki in southern Europe.

EXCLUSIVE – On your marks, get set – GO! Costa del Sol holidaymakers race for loungers when referee’s whistle is blown 

It was a record figure – nearly three million more than in 2021, towards the end of the pandemic.

But the result has been an uptick in opportunistic businesses charging for towel and sunbed reservations on top beaches.

The Save Paros Beaches group showed one firm charging €60 (£51.68) for tourists to rent an umbrella and two sunbeds for the day.

For €120 (£103.36), visitors could enjoy a ‘VIP area’.

Campaigners were quick to point out the beaches are free and there to be enjoyed by all.

They said in a statement: ‘We claim our right to public space, our right to enjoy our beaches that are encroached upon by greedy, socially irresponsible businessmen who occupy beaches in their entirety or exceed their limits by up to 100 times the area they legally lease.’ 

Despite collecting 2,200 signatures, the Mayor of Paros was unclear about how to resolve the issue.

He said: ‘We are experiencing a condition where indecency is so pervasive anyway. Everyone does what they want. 

‘Everyone can ask for what they want because they have never been in control, let alone have consequences attributed to them.’

Finding some early success, the Santa Maria Beach, on Paros, saw the closure of three operating firms after an investigation by the Syros Land Registry, The Sun reported. 

Syros’ main town, Ermoupouli, is the administrative capital of the South Aegean region. 

The Paros movement has resonated with residents across the Cyclades, with group members voicing similar concerns about the situation in Thessaly, Naxos and Rhodes.

Local outlet Hellas Posts reported on Wednesday that citizens had ‘rioted’ on Naxos in response to the ‘delinquent behaviour of beach bars’ guaranteeing beach space with purchases. 

Reports said the movement had inspired a resident of Naxos to found a Facebook group called ‘Save the beaches of Naxos’ last month.

Elena Andrianopoulou, a member, said: ‘The response has been amazing! Within a few days the group gathered more than 3,500 members. 

‘We have written an open letter, signed by more than 1,500 people, which we will send to the prosecutor and the authorities. 

‘At the same time, we started drone recording of the situation on key beaches, in order to compare it with the concession decisions and to reveal the illegality.’

Sun loungers and umbrellas line the Santa Maria beach, where three firms have been closed 

Umbrellas and sun lounger rental options have become a stable fixture on public beaches. Pictured: fixed umbrellas are seen on a beach in Kinion, Syros, an island in the Cyclades

Pristine waters on the island of Naxos, now in the midst of its own towel row

Some 4.5mn Brits travelled to Greece last year, making space for opportunistic businesses

Santa Maria beach, where umbrellas and sun loungers have made an ‘abusive occupation’

Sun loungers are placed tightly together with umbrellas on a beach in Syros, in the Cyclades

We shall fight them on the beaches: campaigners march on Paros against illegal operators

Towel rows have become a staple in British holidaymaking, only today footage showing tourists rush to grab a spot after a slow countdown.

In the Costa del Sol, Spain, one hotel was managing the demand by having a referee blow a whistle to let guests know when it’s time for ready, steady, go. 

One holidaymaker caught the moment at the Parasol Garden in Malaga, close to Hotel Estival Torrequebrada, where MailOnline reported other eager sun bathers grabbing loungers last week. 

At the end of June, video showed one holidaymaker bagging five sun loungers after hilariously scrambling past a pool in Tenerife. 

The footage was posted on TikTok by another guest who filmed the chaotic scene from her balcony at the Paradise Park Hotel in Los Cristianos.

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