Will the sun set on holiday romances?: Condoms are the last thing on your mind if what you feel like is really letting go, says Imogen Edwards-Jones

MY SKIN had that warm gingerbread feeling that comes from a day overdoing it in the sun on the beaches of the Costa del Sol. I had drunk a few too many glasses of sangria which, at the age of 16, had not taken long. The white waiter's jacket that I had bought from Oxfam was lying flat in the sand. It was 2am and I had been out disco dancing with a boy who could hardly speak my language. But he pronounced my name so sexily.

I felt fantastic and very grown up and thought that Paulo was really great. Yes, I was one of the thousands of young travellers who, each year, throw caution to the wind and end up losing their virginity to the first person to massage Hawaiian Tropic between their shoulders.

In the pre-Aids era, our main worry was pregnancy or that he would, a few months later, tip up on the doorstep to stay forever with a faded tan and mousy hair. These days it is a different story.

This week the Department of Health launched a pounds 250,000 campaign aimed at changing the behaviour of those leaving the country. A recent study by Professor Nicholas Day for the Public Health Laboratory Service estimated that, at the end of 1991, 28 per cent of HIV infection had been acquired by heterosexual contact; that people were three times more likely to contract HIV on their summer holidays than at home; and that women were four times more likely to contract the HIV virus heterosexually than men.

Called 'Follow the Travelsafe Code' the DoH initiative consists of a colourful leaflet and a 'Smart Card', a credit-card size reminder that advises people to avoid injecting drugs, tattoos, acupuncture and piercing, medical treatment and unprotected sex. At the same time it reminds them that alcohol and drugs affect their judgement.

But according to an ex-employee of Club 18-30, the leading young people's travel company now known as The Club, such a campaign will have little effect while sex and a good time are the things that attract young people abroad.

'The emphasis was to sell the clients trips that included as much cheap booze as possible. Then we would organise something like mud wrestling, and what with loads of girls running around drunk in bikinis, hitting each other, covered in mud, there was a fair amount of sex going on,' she said.

'But it wasn't so much the punters having sex with each other as the reps and the punters together. There were some who had a different girl every night as a matter of course. It was like a competition. I sat down in a meeting once and the men could not leave their crotches alone - it was disgusting.'

'The Spaniards and the Greeks weren't really into having sex with the English girls. They would just watch and think of the money they were making from us.

'Although The Club does now issue warnings and dish out free condoms, when I worked there in 1989, at the height of the Aids scare, I never even heard the word mentioned. It wasn't part of the fun atmosphere; it would have

put too much of damper on the holiday.'

Alison, who had unprotected sex with an Englishman while on holiday in Mexico, says the freedom and escapism of holidays tends to make people more promiscious. 'It's all about running away from your problems. Everything is suspended for two weeks. It's all about letting go: just like sex, really. But I think that's the problem. You don't plan to have a holiday romance when you leave. You may even take the condoms with you but you don't ever really intend to use them. You're in a dream place and it's all supposed to be like a dream: the last thing you want is to rustle around in the dark.'

'It's all very well for the older generation to tell us from their offices to use condoms, but when you are out discovering things that is the last thing on your mind.'

The ex-employee of Club 18-30 agreed. 'It's all very well handing out condoms to people, and asking them to use them, but once people have been drinking their behaviour becomes more and more irresponsible. But then, if the blokes have been drinking that much it doesn't really matter much anyway.'

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable