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Camping Finikes Complaint PDF Printable Version E-mail


REPORT ON THE DETERIORATION OF CAMPING FINIKES

Margaret & Barry Williamson

February 2015

Preamble: This is a complaint about one of the few campsites in Greece that stays open all year. There is no system for making any complaints at the campsite itself. Neither can we find anywhere on the internet where complaints may be made about tourist services and campsites in Greece. More alarmingly, there does not seem to be a way in which VAT fraud can be reported.

All of this is very disappointing, given the parlous state of the Greek economy which relies on income from tourism and the eradication of VAT fraud and other forms of tax evasion.

Introduction: Camping Finikes is open all year and is located near Finikounda in Messinia. In the winter months (November to March inclusive), it takes motorhomes and caravans from western European countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the UK, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Belgium. There have also been travellers from Australia and New Zealand.

We are a retired professional couple (university and college lecturers), travelling in a motorhome. When this campsite first opened, we were among the earliest winter campers, staying in January 2007. Since then we have recommended Camping Finikes to other motorhomers and caravanners, listing it as one of our favourite winter destinations on our very popular website (www.magbaztravels.com).

However, the standard of the site has declined to the extent that some campers (including us) left early this winter, while others (again including us) are very unlikely to return.

We have a number of complaints about the poor state of the campsite, making it unsuitable for people to stay in winter, but our major concern is that money is taken from the customers without any receipt (which is illegal) and the English winter guardian of the site is employed illegally.

Financial Mismanagement: With an average of at least 10 motorhomes or caravans at Finikes during the winter of 2014-15, the campsite income is over €120 per day or €3,600 per month, approaching €18,000 for the 5-month winter season. In addition to this, money is taken for the use of the washing machine and for the purchase of eggs from the on-site chickens.

All payments are made in cash and, in our experience, receipts are not given by the owner. Indeed when the owner is away in Athens or in Munich, a frequent occurrence in the winter, the English winter guardian takes the cash but has no means of giving any receipts.

Cost of Camping: The cost of €12 per night (€360 per month) may, at first sight, appear reasonable. But for that the camper gets only a small muddy parking spot, electricity for his motorhome or caravan and the use of unheated and unhygienic toilets and showers. In Greece, a small en-suite apartment can be rented for €200 per month (€6.60 per day) in the low season; we were offered the use of a two-bedroom fully furnished house (with WiFi, washing machine, freezer, TV etc and three bathrooms) for €400 per month in January 2015!  

The English Winter Guardian: This person, living on-site in his own motorhome, is in an untenable position.  He has no legal status, is not a registered resident in Greece, has no employment contract, no fixed hours or agreed wage, no job description, no insurance, no transport, no access to the reception office and keys, no way of issuing receipts or handling card payments, and he has very little knowledge of Greek. And yet he is expected to keep an informal record of who is staying on the campsite and for how long; to take cash for camping and for the washing machine; to feed the chickens; to collect, wash and sell the eggs; to deal with any problems and to take overall responsibility for the running and security of the campsite in the owner's prolonged absences.

A prime concern is how the English winter guardian could handle any emergency. No procedure is given in case of fire, flood, accident, illness, theft or incursion by illegal campers. The guardian has no sanctions in the case of bad behaviour on the part of campers: noise, drunkenness, assault, dog fouling, nudity, etc. One camper brought a black pig onto the site and allowed it to run free, even into the kitchen (which has no door)!

Run Down State of the Campsite: It is not surprising, given winter absences of the owner, whose chief interest is in taking money rather than spending it, that the campsite has become run down. Here are some of our observations, supported by the experience of other campers this winter:

1.  The campsite itself is in a very untidy overgrown state, with muddy paths and deep puddles.

2. There are dangerously slippery and often wet tiles, especially outside Reception and inside the toilets and showers.

3.  There are not enough lights on at night, causing one elderly female camper to trip and fall in the dark at the entrance to one of the toilet blocks.

4. There are no replacement light bulbs available to the English winter guardian, and several lights are not working.

5.  The toilets and showers are cold and damp, with open windows and wet floors. This is a major complaint of all the campers.

6. The toilet and showers are not cleaned regularly – if at all. This makes them dirty and unhygienic and is another regular complaint. The first shower we were assigned had a resident snail and a pile of its droppings.

7. Simple maintenance on the door catches and locks in the toilets and showers is neglected.. We were assigned 3 different toilets before finding one that would lock.

8.  The kitchens are even worse than the toilets and showers, with empty mouldy fridges, broken down rusty equipment, no hot water and overflowing rubbish bins. Again, there is no winter cleaning programme.

9. In this travesty of a kitchen an ancient freezer caught fire and campers' food was destroyed.

10.  Fresh eggs are on sale, but the price has risen from €3 for 10 eggs in spring 2014 to €2.40 for 6 eggs in winter 2014: a 33% price rise. Very few campers buy them because of the price (twice that of the local shops) and because they have seen the state in which the chickens are kept. It is not encouraging to see a dead hen being carried out of the disgusting overcrowded coop, which is within the campsite.

11.  Winter campers have no access to the library of books and films in Reception, yet they are the ones most likely to use them.

12.  The key to the empty bar room was left with a privileged German camper for private weekly darts matches, but not open for use by all. The key should be with the English winter guardian and available to anyone wishing to use the room. Otherwise, there is no public indoor space where campers can socialise and spend time together outside their caravans.

13.  Dogs should be kept on a lead on a campsite. A prominent notice is needed and the rule should be enforced. Even the English winter guardian has been bitten more than once.

14. Arrangements for the delivery of post addressed to the campsite are unreliable and insecure. For example, an important letter we expected from England was delivered to a bar in the local village. When we went to check if it had arrived, we were told that the bar owner had it. It was brought to the campsite two days later. Other campers also found their post delayed.

A younger English couple, Peter and Elaine who came to the campsite on our recommendation, were very disappointed, which was embarrassing for us. They describe some of their concerns in their website at https://heidihymer.wordpress.com/  and we quote their comments below:

Peter, Elaine and Heidi Hymer at Camping Finikes (Friday 12th Dec – Mon 4th Jan):

“At this time of year, reception is closed up and there's a note on the door saying speak to Rod on pitch 1A. Rod is English and has run things for the owners over the winter in exchange for his pitch for the past 6 years – not such a great deal, we decided, especially considering all the gardening and tree maintenance work he does. He looks after the chickens too.

The campsite is unfortunately a bit dark and dreary under all the trees and artificial shade made from palm fronds supported on metal 'pergodas'. It may well be necessary in the summer heat, but it's not great at this time of year.

It's a shame the bar or some other communal area wasn't open and used more often, it would've made the whole 'campsite experience' more enjoyable. In winter, everybody spends a lot of time in their vans.

Just as we're leaving, several more people arrive, including another 'youngish' English couple touring for a year. It would be nice to have met them, but preferably in 'the real world', which this isolated campsite feels very removed from.”