“Beach umbrella mafia” target tourists on Algerian beaches

Screengrabs of videos shared on a Facebook group called “The best and worst areas in Algeria” ("Meilleurs et pires coins d'Algérie").
Screengrabs of videos shared on a Facebook group called “The best and worst areas in Algeria” ("Meilleurs et pires coins d'Algérie").


This summer, holiday makers in Algeria are taking to social media to condemn what they call the “beach umbrella mafia” – illegal vendors who charge tourists for using sections of the country’s beaches.

In the past decade, the so-called “beach umbrella mafia” has been invading beaches across Algeria. The name was first used to describe local residents who began charging people to use beach umbrellas provided for public use by the city. These crafty locals set up shop on public beaches every day of the week and charged fees to tourists.

People have started speaking out against this racket, including our Algerian Observer Yassine H. (not his real name), who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons. His Facebook page “The best and worst corners of Algeria” (“Les meilleures et les pires coins d’Algérie”) is filled with accounts of these beach criminals. He says that this racket is making it harder for people to access and enjoy public beaches.


“The illegal vendors make up their own rules”

At the entrance to each beach, there are people that we call “parkingueurs”, who are men that make tourists pay to park. They aren’t city employees. Instead, they are employed by local kingpins.

It costs between 150 and 200 dinars [around 2 euros] to park your car. But this doesn’t even give you access to the beach. When you get to the beach, there are teenagers there who ask for more money.

This video was filmed in Béjaïa. It was posted by the Facebook group “Les meilleurs et les pires coins d'Algérie".


For example, it costs around 1,700 dinars [around 12 euros] to use a beach umbrella, table and chairs for the day on a public beach. If you include money for lunch, you could easily spend 3,000 dinars [around 22 euros] for a day out.

In comparison, the same kit on a private beach costs around 2,000 dinars [around 14.50 euros] a day, without including food. So there isn’t much of a difference.

With prices being that high, it is hard for me to take my family out more than two or three times a month.


“If you show any reluctance to pay the fees that they are asking for, things can become tense quickly”

Even though there have been many complaints over the racket, the local authorities tolerate the “beach umbrella mafia” as long as they don’t force beachgoers to pay. But the illegal vendors don’t always respect this rule, which leads to quite a few disputes with tourists.

Our Observer continues:

Personally, I usually go to the Sidi Frej public beach [Editor’s note: a peninsula located around 30 kilometres from Algiers]. Each morning, there are tents set up near the seaside. If you want to enjoy a sea view, then you have to rent one of these tents.

Sometimes, I try to avoid participating in the system and paying these fees. I bring my own beach umbrella and attempt to set it up in one of the few empty spots. But then, a group of illegal vendors comes over and threatens to kick me out so I give up.

Usually, if you show any reluctance to pay the fees that they are asking for, things can become tense quickly. They lord over Algerian beaches.

Anonymous account from a tourist who encountered the “beach mafia” at a beach in Cherchell, in northeastern Algeria. Post translated from French:

“Never has the occupation of a beach gone so far. Not only are they occupying the parking lot that is 150 metres away, they are also occupying the beach with the tables and the beach umbrellas that practically destroy the view. Moreover, they have prevented citizens from using two thirds of the beach by pulling up their boats close to the tables as shown in these photos. You can’t sit behind because you can’t see anything and you don’t even have beach access.

The worst is that there is a constant police presence in the area. When I went to talk to a police officer he said that I could sit where I wanted to and that no one would bother me. But the problem is that they have taken over the beach and there isn’t even enough space to set out a towel. Either you pay up or you go home. Even if the minister has forbidden this practice, so why isn’t Cherchell city government giving these people the right to take over the beach under the eyes of the police!”


Several different incidents have made waves on social media. For example, this video, which was filmed in July in Tighremt (a town located to the east of Algiers) shows a dispute between a group of beachgoers and an illegal vendor. The beachgoers were asked to leave after they refused to pay the fee and wanted to set up their own material on the beach.

This group of beachgoers were asked to leave the beach in Tighremt, a town to the east of Algiers. (Video reposted by the Facebook page Observ'Algérie).

Last June, near Oran, a city in western Algeria, a man nearly died after being attacked and stabbed by one of these illegal vendors. The beachgoer, who was there with his family, had been complaining about the high prices for parking and renting lawn chairs.


“The illegal vendors play a cat and mouse game with the security forces”

In January, the Minister of the Interior and Local Collectivities, who is in charge of managing the coasts, said that he believed in free beach access during the summer. In June, the ministry asked the city governments of beach towns to choose an administrator who would be in charge of monitoring the beaches and would have his own police force. However, this law has not yet been put into action.

Exasperated, some tourists call the police on these illegal vendors. However, the illegal vendors seem to be playing a game of cat and mouse with the authorities, says our Observer.

For example, this video filmed on Sidi Fredj beach shows vendors throwing their wares into the sea as the police arrive on the scene to avoid having their equipment confiscated.

Illegal vendors threw their wares into the sea after police arrived in Sidi Fredj on July 4, 2018.


Local journalist Amina Moudoud explains:

As soon as the police leave the area, the vendors set up their beach umbrellas all over again. It is a vicious cycle. Until the illegal vendors are punished in a systematic fashion, they will keep doing what they are doing. The local police need to be responsive to this issue. If we decide that a beach is public, then illegal vendors shouldn’t be tolerated.

France 24 reached out to both local authorities and the Minister of the Interior and Local Collectivities, but received no response. If we do receive a response, we will update this article.

Article by Kenza Safi-Eddine.