A new Club 18-30: sea, sand and... scripture

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Club 18–30. Picture an orgy of sun, sex and alcohol-fuelled fun. Now scrap that picture: there will be no rampant hedonism on the Christian 18-30 holidays being launched this week. There will be no sleeping with other guests, unless they happen to be your spouse, of course, and après-skiers will eschew drinking games in favour of Bible study sessions.

Responsible behaviour will be encouraged and expected at all times – the very opposite of the traditional Club 18-30 holidays that draw tens of thousands of young Britons each year. Unmarried holidaymakers on the Christian version will be asked to share single-sex dormitories, and guidelines will also forbid them from swearing or drinking too much.

Despite these onerous pre-conditions, independent operator Richmond Travel, based in Kingston, Surrey, hopes to tap into a lucrative and growing market among the 41 million Britons who claim to be Christian. "We felt there was a gap in the market for the 18-30 age group... to take on the Club 18-30 model with an environment that wasn't based on booze and sex," said chief executive, Ben Turner. "There are a lot of people who want to go on holiday but uphold the normal Christian morals."

Although traditional church attendance may be in general decline, the sleekly marketed evangelical movement which runs the Alpha Course claims that more than two million Britons have attended its 10-week programme. Other signs of a growing interest in Christianity can be seen in the growth in Christian book sales, with hundreds of specialist bookshops catering for a British market that has almost doubled in the past decade to £110m.

And faith-based travel is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the industry, according to the World Travel Organization. The religious tourism industry is worth £9bn worldwide, with an estimated 330 million people going on religious holidays each year.

Brontë Torrance, a 21-year-old medical student from Edinburgh, is booked to go on the first Christian 18-30 ski trip – to La Rosière in the French Alps, in January. "Traditional 18-30 holidays can be intense because there is a lot of alcohol going around," she said. "These holidays could take off in the Christian community. I am looking forward to being with other people who appreciate the scenery as being designed by God. We do party, but it is just not as hard-core."