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Empty sunbeds and umbrellas are seen on a beach at a resort of Aghia Marina, near the town of Chania on Crete island on April 21, 2022.--AFP
Empty sunbeds and umbrellas are seen on a beach at a resort of Aghia Marina, near the town of Chania on Crete island on April 21, 2022.--AFP

Greece hands out 350,000 euros in fines over sunbed wars

Greece issued more than 350,000 euros ($379,000) in fines in just five days in a crackdown on bars and restaurants illegally covering beaches with sunbeds and tables, the government said. Officials recently suspended three “unlicensed” beaches operating without a proper contract, the economy ministry said.

Authorities have investigated “more than 1,000 complaints” by the public in tourist hotspots such as Corfu Island, Chalkidiki peninsula, and Attica - the region around Athens - in a bid to counter over tourism. A record-breaking 33 million people visited Greece last year, five million more than in 2022.

Athens is cracking down on rogue tourist practices with surveillance drones, satellite imagery and a special app, “MyCoast”, on which people can complain. Greeks can also call land registry offices to report unlawful beach occupations. Under the new rules introduced in March, umbrellas and deck chairs must be at least four meters from the sea. And no rentals are allowed on beaches that have less than four meters of sand. The majority of fines clamped down on sunbeds and umbrellas taking up too much space on the beach, the government said.

The government took measures after locals on the southeastern island of Paros launched protests dubbed the “towel” movement, demanding free, unencumbered access to the seaside. Protesters denounced the appropriation of many beaches by businesses deploying parasols and deckchairs rented by the day, some at high rates.

“Our goal is to protect both the environment and the right of citizens to access the beach freely, and to preserve our tourism product as well as healthy entrepreneurship,” Economy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said in a statement. Drones will fly over the famed Cyclades and Dodecanese islands - near the Turkish coast - over the next few days to flag potential violations. — AFP

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