Faliraki's image of lager louts to get a transformation: welcome to a haven for families, business and nature

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The Independent Online

Faliraki has, you might think, everything for the discerning lager lout - women in micro minis and see-through boob tubes, lots of alcohol and plenty of kindred spirits. But the scandal-hit resort on Rhodes does not want to know them any more and has employed British public relations experts to transform its image.

In a move that could represent the greatest rebranding challenge of our times, the local tourist authority has signed up two PR companies to restore the reputation of its notorious tourist centre.

Peter Giakoumis, of the Rhodes Tourism Promotion Board, said: "We began as a family resort and the reputation of the area has not been fair to the rest of the island. We are not going to stop young people coming to have a good time but we want to attract families and business people to the area."

The past year has been a difficult one for Faliraki. The resort - a jungle of bars and clubs, lined along Bar Street and Club Street - initially achieved notoriety when it provided the back drop to ITV1's Club Reps programme, in which young British men and women were shown binge drinking and misbehaving.

In August, an 18-year-old British holidaymaker was arrested, spent two days in prison and was fined €2,500 (£1,700) after flashing her breasts in a Faliraki nightclub. The low point came with the death of Paddy Doran, a 17-year-old Briton who was stabbed to death in a drunken brawl on 12 August.

Mr Giakoumis said that the new PR scheme, spearheaded by two companies based in London, Doug Goodman Public Relations and The Saltmarsh Partnership, would aim to repackage the former fishing village as a place for families, businessmen and nature lovers. Local attractions include the ruins of the Temple of Athena built in 342BC (and subsequently restored after a fire); "beautiful nature walks", a water park and a forthcoming large convention centre.

He said that bar crawls, in which up to 200 people would roam from bar to bar with the promise of drinks all night in exchange for a one-off payment, have been banned. And the most disruptive bars have been forced to close.

Recently, a group of police officers from Blackpool flew to the Greek resort to offer advice to those in charge of law and order. Superintendent Andy Rhodes, who led the delegation, welcomed the news that Faliraki was seeking a new image. "I wish them luck and I hope they manage it," he said, but added: "They will need to tighten up their act a bit." In Blackpool, publicans have recently agreed to a voluntary ban on cut-price drinks. Mr Rhodes said the Greek authorities ought to consider a similar move.

Some PR professionals were sceptical that the rebranding of Faliraki would be successful.

Christin Manners, of Kaizo, whose PR clients include Epson, warned that the town "will have to change its underlying behaviour" before any PR message would work. Bar owners may not appreciate their revenues being damaged, he predicted

Mark Borkowski, whose clientele includes Selfridges and Virgin Megastore, agreed that an unsavoury brand would not be helped by a public relations campaign. He said: "But if Faliraki changes, and I think it can, it could turn around perceptions." Other brands, such as Skoda, Top Shop and Brylcreem had managed to lose their negative perceptions among the public. He warned that the task would not be an easy one.