Going on holiday to Greece? That will be a fight for a lounger | To travel

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Want to laze on a beach bed with iced coffee or cocktail in hand? Then you may have to arrive early in Greece this summer. The government sets limits on the number of sunbeds.

Sun loungers may cover no more than 30 percent of the beaches – in vulnerable areas yet to be identified, even 15 percent. On some beaches, beach beds are becoming completely taboo. Operators must also keep at least four meters of beach free between the first row of beds and the waterline.

The measures are included in a law aimed at making beaches safer and more accessible, which was adopted by the Greek parliament this month. They follow a summer of protests, mainly by island residents. In recent years, they have had to watch with dismay as operators fill entire beaches with beds, intended for foreign tourists who often pay for them without difficulty. As a result, there was less and less room for residents and visitors to put a towel on the beach for free.

Residents of Rhodes were the first to take action last year: they walked onto the beach armed with their towels to claim their place among the astonished tourists. Soon the ‘Towel Movement’ protests spread to other islands, including Paros and Naxos.

A packed beach on Mykonos © Getty Images

In the background is the strong increase in tourism in Greece, with a real explosion after the corona pandemic. Last year, a record number of 33 million holidaymakers visited the country with a population of ten million.

Prices rose accordingly, including for beach beds. These increased from a few to sometimes tens of euros. With excesses of hundreds of euros or more for a front seat on one of the more exclusive beaches on the jet-set island of Mykonos.

Not only a holiday in their own country, but even a beach visit in their own hometown threatened to become unattainable for many Greeks. Despite strong economic growth, their incomes have hardly increased in recent years.

LOOK. On Tenerife the towels happily fly to the sunbeds

The protests of the Towel Movement received a lot of attention, and therefore appear to be having an effect. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the new beach measures via TikTok. The permit system is also being overhauled. From now on, operators must apply for their license via a national online auction to avoid scuffles with local officials. Each beach will also have a complaints box for reports of violations, and there will be supervision via drones, among other things.

Cronyism

This control is also one of the sore points of the new measures. It is not that there are no rules so far, but operators routinely ignore them. Due to the tangle of responsibilities, cronyism and chronic understaffing of the inspection, beach bar owners can go about their business virtually undisturbed.

Just this week, one of the most popular hotel-restaurants on Mykonos had its permit revoked because the owner had built up four times as much of the famous Paradise Beach as allowed by his permit.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the plans via TikTok. © AFP

In addition, operators are often warned prior to an inspection. Last year, residents photographed how a beach bar on Naxos quickly packed beach beds into a truck just before an inspection. When the inspectors got back on the boat, the beds were back on the beach in no time.

Greenpeace

The new law makes no mention of how the inadequate inspection can be improved. In addition, environmental organizations are strongly critical of, among other things, the removal of building restrictions in the new law. Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, among others, find it incomprehensible that the construction ban within thirty meters of the beach is now being abolished.

This not only paves the way for the legalization of hundreds of illegally built hotels, restaurants and villas, but also for the construction of new ones. This disrupts the flora and fauna of the areas and makes the beaches and hinterland more vulnerable in times of rising sea levels and climate change, the organizations warn.

The European Court of Justice previously ruled that Greece is not doing enough to protect its vulnerable natural areas, including beaches.

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The article is in Dutch

Tags: holiday Greece fight lounger travel

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