Politicians in Italy agreed on Tuesday to set a deadline of the end of 2024 for completing tenders for lucrative contracts to run bars and other beach amenities, easing tensions within the ruling coalition.
In Italy, licenses to hire out sun loungers and beach umbrellas are traditionally held by families and passed down from generation to generation. Rival entrepreneurs claim they have been unfairly denied a piece of a large corporation.
“We’re getting close to a favorable settlement,” Federico D’Inca, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, told the press.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi attempted to strike an agreement within his national unity government earlier this year to start the tenders on January 1, 2024, but the centre-right Forza Italia and League parties blocked the bill in parliament.
They say that keeping it in the family keeps beachgoers’ fees low and keeps Italy’s 7,500 kilometers of coastline out of the hands of huge companies that might not respect local customs.
Unless there are any last-minute shocks, the parties are anticipated to adopt an addendum extending present concessions until the end of 2023. To complete the tender procedure, Italian authorities might extend them until December 31, 2024.
According to MPs, the alliance still has to come up with a plan to compensate exiting concessionaires if they lose the bids.
The overhaul of the license system is part of a plan to boost competition in product and service sectors, which both chambers of parliament must adopt this year in order for Rome to meet obligations made to the European Commission. This would enable Italy to access 40 billion euros ($43 billion) in COVID-related recovery funds.
The ruling parties want to get Senate approval by May 31, according to D’Inca.
Beach concessions are ostensibly state-owned, but they seldom go up for public bidding, leaving Italy’s balneari – or beach managers – to control everything from single-shack parasol rentals to high-market cafés and restaurants.
According to a report by the Nomisma consultancy, the government raised just 115 million euros in 2019 from the sale of beach licenses, despite the industry’s projected annual value of 15 billion euros.