Greek locals go to war against expensive sunbeds on beaches

The idyllic beaches found on Greek islands have become a battleground between locals and beachfront businesses which have planted pricey sun-loungers on the shore, leaving some residents pushed out by the expensive seating.

A campaign, nicknamed the “Towel Movement”, has seen people marching along Greek beaches protesting the pay-per-use sunbeds taking over public sands, with many holding signs decrying the situation. Last week, hundreds of locals staged a sit-in on the beach to draw attention to their cause.

The movement began on Paros and has now spread to Naxos, with more than 5,000 in the Facebook group Save the Beaches of Naxos NOW!.

Beaches are public spaces in Greece, but businesses such as restaurants, hotels and bars can lease areas for customers to sit in. Some locals have argued that not only are businesses spreading out further than they are allowed, they are taking advantage with incredibly high prices.

The Save Paros Beaches group shared one image on Facebook showing an umbrella and two sunbeds to rent for €60 a day. To soak up the sunshine in the “VIP area”, the cost was €120 per day.

“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,” the Save Paros Beaches group said in a statement to Metro.

Nicolas Stephanou, a 70-year-old who lives on Paros, told The New York Times that locals “feel we’re being pushed off the island.”

He claimed that there are “massive discrepancies” over the area businesses should be taking up and how far they have spread, with the NYT reporting that 7,186 square metres were officially leased last year but 18,800 square metres of beach space was taken up.

“Even five years ago, I could go to any beach and just go and enjoy nature, enjoy the sand, enjoy the water, the silence,” Ronit Nesher, who permanently relocated to Paros several years ago, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Now it’s packed with loungers and umbrellas and there is not even a space to put a towel or chair or just to come and sit on the sand.

“Is that what you guys want to turn Paros in to? With no considerations of the locals and of nature?”

The Independent has contacted the Paros Municipality for comment, and has reached out to the Paros and Naxos campaign groups.

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