Sunbed wars could be over after tourists seek compensation from TUI

The dawn departure for poolside sun loungers could soon be consigned to history, after a holiday resort in Rhodes was found to have failed to implement a policy designed to stamp out the practice.

A plaintiff in Germany demanded compensation for a £4,532 Greek family holiday booked with tour operator Tui at the Atlantica Mikri Poli resort on the island of Rhodes last year.

They claimed they had been unable to use any sunloungers one morning because they were all taken by guests and that hotel had not enforced its policy that restricts “reserving” beds with towels to 30 minutes, after which time unused belongings are removed, reports MailOnline.

The man claimed that while he and his family stuck to the rules, the hotel, which has six pools and 500 loungers, did nothing about violations by other tourists.

The plaintiff won his initial case last year. The ruling at Hanover District Court in northern Germany can be appealed and is not yet legally binding. But if it stands, Tui will be forced to pay the plaintiff £278 in compensation, representing the portion of their holiday they had been deprived of.

Tui declined to comment on the basis the case was ongoing, but suggested that customers who cannot find a sunbed should inform their hotel’s reception for a solution. TikTok users have suggested buying an inflatable sunbed to ensure a favoured poolside spot each day.

Should the claimant finally receive the compensation, holidaymakers could soon find that resorts crack down on sunbed-bagging, which has until now gone largely unenforced.

From the Greek to Spanish islands, ro costas and even cruise ships, holidaymakers can regularlybe found braced against poolside and beachside gates at sunrise, loaded with towels ready to be flung down on their lounger of choice.

Some sit in chairs, forming a queue hours before the pool opens, in order to secure a lounger. Others can be seen standing beneath parasols before beds have been set out for the day. Once gates are opened, there’s a race for those closest to the water, with towels flung down in a fevered flurry of excitement. Claimants then disappear, often waiting hours before returning to their towels.

So contentious is the practice that in recent years resorts have begun introducing limitations on “reserving” sun loungers, restricting guests to periods of 30, 45 or 60 minutes, after which time towels and belongings can be cleared for use by alternative guests if the chair is unoccupied.

Not restricted to holiday resort poolsides, so-called “sunbed wars” also rage on beaches and cruise ships. A TikTok post in December appeared to show loungers being taken at 5.30am aboard P&O’s Arvia ship in the Caribbean.

However, notes can be left by staff if a lounger is left vacant for more than one hour, directing the previous occupant to their belongings if they have been removed for safe storage.

In recent years, many Spanish resorts have introduced fines for beachgoers that try to “reserve” busy beach areas by planting a parasol or lounger in the sand early in the day, often not returning for hours.

These include popular beaches in Malaga province such as Nerja, Gandia in Valencia, Calpe in Alicante and Tarifa on the Costa de la Luz. Fines range from €50 to €3,000.

In the summer of 2023, a local movement to “reclaim” beaches from commercial operators without permits on the Greek islands of Rhodes, Paros, Crete and Naxos, as well as Attica and Halkidiki on the mainland, sought to restore public access to locations overrun with sunbed and parasol rentals, which can be as much as €120 per day.

Paros residents are opposed to the lack of public access to beaches (Photo: HarrisDro/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Paros residents are opposed to the lack of public access to beaches (Photo: HarrisDro/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Concern about the use of public beaches by “entrepreneurs”; a high density of tables, chairs, umbrellas and sunbeds; noise pollution; and construction of semi-permanent beach structures; resulted in several protests across the country.

Meanwhile, Pelosa beach on the north-east coast of Sardinia limited daily visitors to 1,500 people and requested that they use mats rather than beach towels, in a bid to trap and remove less sand from the beauty spot. Visitors must also pay a daily fee of €3.50.