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Sunbed wars: Costa chaos as tourists fight for a place by the pool

Hotels are implementing measures to prevent so-called sunbedwars.
Hotels are implementing measures to prevent so-called sunbedwars. Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Laura Llach
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Hotels say without sunbed controls 'it would be a jungle' as tourists compete for prime locations at hotels all along the Spanish coast.

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It's day three of the sunbed wars at the Paradise Park Hotel in Spain’s Canary Islands.

At the large tropical lagoon-style swimming pool, a crowd of guests suddenly emerges, rushing to be the first to lay their towels on a sunbed.

It's the start of chaos.

The swarm of tourists sprints the 20 metres from the pool entrance to the sunbeds - and one man takes the lead, managing to put towels on five sunbeds. 

It's game, set and match for the remaining customers who watch in astonishment.

The incident only came to light after a video went viral in mid-July, although the hotel's management declined to comment on what happened when contacted by Euronews.

You might think this is a rare incident at resorts along the Spanish coastline, but it's happening on a daily basis, sometimes menacingly. 

The latest incident took place this week, also in the Canary Islands, when two British tourists kicked a mother out of her sunbed to steal her place, according to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.

To avoid these clashes, Spanish hotels are getting creative.

Janet Blackmon Morgan /AP
Archive pictures of sunbathers.Janet Blackmon Morgan /AP

Sunbed controller to the rescue

At six-thirty in the morning, the line starts forming outside the swimming pool at the Sunset Beach Club Hotel on Spain's famous Costa del Sol.

The venue will not open until nine, but there's already a queue of about thirty people.

"We have customers here who are very proud to be the first in line. We have set up security so that when we open the door, there is no pushing and shoving and no sneaking in," Miguel Marcos, the hotel's director, told Euronews.

"If we didn't have controls, it would be a jungle," he adds.

Organisation is key at this hotel, which has 700 sunbeds to be shared by the 1,800 guests.

At nine o'clock José Carlos, the hotel's sunbed controller, opens the doors and the towel game begins.

"There is a war for the best spots, but for the rest of the day there is really no problem. Every summer there’s a war, however this year it's much quieter," says José Carlos, who has worked as a sunbed controller for the last three years.

Not all share the same enthusiasm for being the first to arrive, however, and there are many who watch the scene with amazement.

The most experienced customers are the ones who race for the best sunbeds. When asked, the director draws a clear profile.

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"There are people who have been coming for years and want a particular sunbed, others want to be near the pool for the children, or to see the sea. Then there are those who come with friends and want to be all together," says Marcos.

Euronews
Map of the Costa del Sol, in the south of Spain.Euronews

The Costa del Sol has had a "sweet year", recording the best figures in its history, according to the president of the Costa del Sol Tourism and Planning Board, Francisco Salado.

Despite the lower number of visitors, tourist revenues have increased 18.3% to €17,081 million.

To cope with the demand, Sunset Beach Club Hotel has cut down palm trees and bought more sunbeds to extend the pool area, saying that while in the past tourists preferred to go to the beach, this trend has changed in recent years.

Protocols have also been put in place to avoid conflicts.

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Sunbed controllers walk around the pool to locate the hammocks that are falsely occupied and leave a warning. After an hour, they return and if there is still no one there, they take away the things left behind to release the sunbed for another customer to use.

There are clues that put them on alert. "If they leave a book on the hammock at 9.30 in the morning, we know they are saving it. Others leave a single towel to cover four sunbeds," says José Carlos.

"The bravest jump in the pool in the early hours of the morning, put their towels where they want them and go back to bed," adds the hotel manager.

The sunbed controller’s job has been specially designed so that guests can enjoy the pool without any surprises.

"The name is very well chosen, it helps to avoid fights between people. Although it's true that some get angry with us when we take away their towels," says José Carlos.

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Nevertheless, the method has proved effective, as many customers repeat the experience, but not so many learn the lesson.

"It's like Groundhog Day all over again," says the manager.

Andrew Medichini/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
Passengers enjoy the sun by a swimming pool on board of a cruise ship.Andrew Medichini/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved

€5,000 a day as sunbed saver

In 2020, Alexia Parmigiani left her business in London and moved to Ibiza.

When she arrived on the Spanish island, she figured out that sunbeds could make her a fortune.

Tourists on the island would party until the early hours and then find it impossible to get up early enough to book a sunbed by the pool. Nevertheless, they wanted the coveted spots.

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One of the most popular services offered by Parmigiani, who now works for luxury concierge company Queen of Clubs, is 'Hold My Sunbed'.

The British woman will hold a sunbed for you in exchange for around €500. In high season she could have up to ten clients a day, generating a cash flow of €5,000, Parmigiani said in a recent interview. 

Her modus operandi is to make agreements with the owners of the best clubs or beaches to be able to offer this service. When she’s hired, Parmigiani goes to the club when it opens, at ten in the morning, and haggles for the best spot by the pool.

She then makes her way to the sunbed and keeps an eye out to make sure that nobody gets the one her client wants. Armed with a fan, she waits for hours until the customer decides to show up.

As she told the media, she never sits on the beds while she waits, as she risks wrinkling the towels.

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