Controversy in Greece Over Closure of Shipwreck Beach on Zakynthos
The decision announced last week by the Greek Tourism Ministry to shut down for the summer one of the most-visited beaches in Greece, Navagio located on the island of Zakynthos, has caused controversy after the Municipality of Zakynthos said it had not been informed.
Speaking to GRTimes.gr, the president of the Zakynthos city council, Stavros Kakolyris said the decision announced in the press last week came as a surprise and a “blow” to the municipality.
“Officially, no one informed us. We found out from the media this morning and were caught by surprise. We expect Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias to inform us about the issue,” said Kakolyris, adding that the committee responsible for the preservation and safe management of the beach had also not been informed.
“We will wait for Kikilias’ official announcement; however we are not in favor of closing Shipwreck Beach for the tourist season. It will be a massive blow to the tourism industry of the island; this is the most popular attraction of the country,” he added.
Zakynthos Chamber requests second risk assessment
Last week, the tourism ministry announced that Navagio Beach would remain closed during the summer on the recommendation of the National Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization (EPPO).
The announcement created a stir among Zakynthos tourism businesses and the committee responsible the safe management of the beach resulting in the resignation of several members of the committee who claimed that their recommendations for protective measures which should have already been implemented were not taken into consideration. At the same time, the Zakynthos Chamber requested a second on-the-spot risk assessment of the beach.
In response to the debate over the beach, the tourism ministry said access would not be allowed but boats could approach.
It should be noted that last week’s decision came after an on the spot inspection on March 8 by EPPO led by its president Efthymios Lekkas. The assessment found that there was extensive landslide risk due to erosion on the perimeter slopes. The decision to ban visitor access to the world-famous beach was discussed by officials from the ministries of climate crisis and civil protection, shipping and island policy, tourism, the Hellenic Police, the Coast Guard, and the Ionian Islands Region.
Adding to the confusion around the decision, local media report that Lekkas retracted his previous recommendation on Monday, claiming that passengers on board tourist boats could swim and admire the view, and adding that it was “incorrect” to say that Navagio would be closed.
Kikilias: It would be negligence if we ignore recommendation of experts
Speaking to the Athens News Agency (ANA) today, Kikilias reiterated the ministry’s decision that the beach would remain closed for the summer: boats will be able to approach but swimming will not be allowed near the beach.
“As the minister of tourism, I am the last person to want the beach to be closed, although boats will be able to approach and visitors can enjoy and photograph this unique attraction. However, it would be negligence if we ignored the recommendation of the experts and endangered the lives of residents and travelers who visit the Shipwreck. Above all, it is safety and human life,” said Kikilias on Monday.
Last September the beach was once again closed off to the public due to safety risk. In 2018, access to the beach was banned after a landslide injured seven people.