Blue Lagoon deckchair video goes viral to Malta’s shame

Images of Comino’s Blue Lagoon have gone viral, but for the wrong reasons – the idyllic location, used to promote the island to tourists, is touted for its sea of ​​unsightly sunbeds and umbrellas, not azure blue waters , because the operators monopolize the region. before someone arrives.

The Malta timetables video, which records employees preventing swimmers from moving loungers and umbrellas to make room on the public beach because they didn’t want to hire them and showed up early with theirs, had received at the time of writing more of 3.2 million views, and counts.

It has been seen in the UK, Malta’s largest tourist market, four times as many as in Malta itself.

Video: Karl Andrew Micallef

But the Tourism Ministry, which has so far not explained what is happening with the concessionaires, their permits, fees and any enforcement, has dismissed calls for clarification and reactions to public outrage, saying simply that “Comino needs a holistic plan based on sustainability”.

When asked if the authorities would remedy the recurring situation at one of the country’s main tourist outlets, a spokesperson for the ministry simply said: “The aforementioned island is not made up of only the Blue Lagoon, but incorporates other natural attractions which as we will continue to conserve and invest, while promoting the ecotourism niche.

He also didn’t explain what the laws said and if they were broken.

The ministry and its tourism watchdog had previously cryptically stated that “no permits have been issued for deckchair operators this year” when asked about the situation in Comino.

But they never clarified what that meant and whether the app was required and was being enforced.

It has been seen in the UK, Malta’s largest tourist market, four times as many as in Malta itself.

Questions about who is responsible for the Comino Blue Lagoon and whether operator fees on the island had been waived for the second year in a row have also been ignored by the Gozo ministry.

Meanwhile, the viral video captures the age-old and illegal practice of occupying beaches around the island and blocking access to the foreshore while deckchairs and sunbeds are only to be distributed upon request.

The story generated more than 3,300 comments on the Times of Malta’s Facebook page alone, the vast majority criticizing the abusive situation.

Comino’s overcrowded facility is a familiar sight that has characterized the scene for years, with deckchairs pouring into the shallows and sprawling over the surrounding high rocks and protected garigue of the Natura 2000 site.

They are wrapped tightly, with no means of social distancing during COVID-19 as the gap between them is the width of an umbrella base.

While the Ministry of Tourism focused on “other natural attractions,” the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth stressed that the abuse of public land and foreshore was not the only problem the ecological site was faced.

It has also been in the spotlight because of illegal government work on a controversial dust road leading to the Blue Lagoon, which involved the construction of service culverts.

Although the illegalities were discovered and then highlighted by the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for the Environment and Urban Planning, and reported to Parliament and the Prime Minister, the resurfacing work continued and no action was taken. socket.

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