Tour firms cash in on `yob culture'

In the week Britain's vice-consul in Ibiza resigned in protest, Jeremy Atiyah reveals how holiday companies exploit the very behaviour he condemned
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The Independent Online
LEADING TOUR operators are offering tailor-made sunshine trips to young clubgoers, promoting the sort of non- stop partying that prompted the resignation last week of the British vice-consul in Ibiza, in protest at ravers' "degenerate" behaviour.

Airtours and Thomson Holidays have issued their "youth" brochures for next year's summer season, covering a wide range of resorts from Spain to Turkey. Ibiza, the ravers' favourite destination, takes pride of place.

The wild antics and drug-fuelled club culture of Ibiza have become notorious in recent years. Michael Birkett, the British representative there, quit his job in protest at the "degrading" conduct he encountered. His criticism of young Britons abroad was echoed in the Spanish press.

Prospective holidaymakers would be unlikely to confuse Airtours' brochure, Escapades, with a "mum dad and the kids" package - at first glance it seems to be a ravers' style bible. From the psychedelic whirl of colour on the front cover to the innuendo-studded headlines within - "take a power-trip", "chill-out zone", "fill up with funk" - this brochure speaks the language of the drug and rave culture.

It also speaks the language of drunkenness. Virtually every page depicts young revellers holding beer glasses up to the camera or guzzling jugs of sangria. "We know you want to fly together, pour beer over each other, and borrow each other's clothes ... that's the beer money sorted then," quips the text, by way of explaining the group-discount terms.

Thomson's Club Freestyle brochure is more cautious in this respect; it also contains an explicit advisory at the back, warning against the use of drugs. However, these "budget, youth-oriented" packages are an increasingly mainstream part of the summer holiday market.

Developing out of a small subsection of the family-oriented Skytours brochure, Club Freestyle has grown, in the space of the past two years, into a mainstay of the Thomson brochure series.

Both the Thomson and Airtours brochures are brutally up-front about who their target audience should be. "No screaming kids, no feuding families and no knotted hankies," declares Thomson. "It's payback time," screams Airtours, which, a few lines later, suggests that readers might care to "join in one of our notorious drinking competitions".

Asked if such material encouraged bad behaviour, a Thomson spokeswoman said: "We attract students, groups of friends and people looking for basic but affordable accommodation. People are not required to be naughty, but they are entitled to a good time in the way they would be at home."

Both brochures have small-print sections at the back stating the companies can terminate holidays if clients behave badly. There are also general warnings about the dangers of unprotected sex.

On the other hand, to judge by the pictures, punters returning from a Club Freestyle or Escapades holiday without having had sex with a stranger might have legal grounds to demand their money back. From the lads baring their bums to the school-age girls sticking their tongues out at the camera, there is plenty here to curdle the blood of British vice-consuls across the Med.

Not that the accommodation on offer looks particularly promising for one-to-one encounters. The cheapest deals - both operators offer a week's holiday, including flights and self-catering accommodation, for only pounds 99 - are based on four people sharing a one-bedroom apartment.

But there would appear to be little excuse for any easily shocked types who might book these holidays by mistake.

"Our agents take great care to ensure that Club Freestyle customers do not end up in the same hotels as our family customers," said the Thomson spokeswoman. "As far as possible, they are even kept in separate resorts. On Ibiza, for example, the partygoers stay in San Antonio, while more sedate types are put in resorts like Santa Eulalia."