Sankha Guha: Man About World

Beware. Club Rep is coming this way
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The Independent Travel

I have not been to Faliraki. En route to the airport I saw it once from the main road running down the spine of Rhodes. By night the aureola of neon rising from the coast acted as part lure and part early warning to anyone who strayed within reach. Even from a distance, I recognised the territory. Anyone who has been to the Med has been to Faliraki.

I have not been to Faliraki. En route to the airport I saw it once from the main road running down the spine of Rhodes. By night the aureola of neon rising from the coast acted as part lure and part early warning to anyone who strayed within reach. Even from a distance, I recognised the territory. Anyone who has been to the Med has been to Faliraki.

On the neighbouring island of Kos it is called Kardamena - another shanty Britannia in the land of Homer. Kardamena is a concentration camp of bars, each blaring its own brand of nerve-jangling, key-clashing, genre-defying nasty pop. For Brit youth the mix of alcohol, white noise and anything-goes-away-from-home is too much and never enough. For the truly lame, the halt and the homesick other sadder dens offer Rodney and Delboy's greatest hits, or worse, endless video loops of Roy Chubby Brown playing to an audience of Chubby Brown lookalikes.

Faliraki has all this and more. We know it from ITV's "ob doc" (observational documentary) series which gave centre stage to the demonic MCs of holiday debauchery - Club Reps. It was a warts 'n' more warts look at their chosen vocation: making vacations for the idiot tendency. Amid a sea of football strips, micro skirts and high-heeled strappies, the reps were seen egging on their clients to ever greater heights of alcohol-induced yobbery and sexual humiliation. That's ratings. That's entertainment.

And that is bookings - or so the tour operators, hoteliers and bar owners who were persuaded to take part must have calculated. Their dreams have turned to dust. Club 18-30 is reporting a 70 per cent drop in bookings, down catastrophically from 2000 to only 300 so far this year. First Choice has pulled out of Faliraki altogether. Sleazy as it was, the TV show cannot be held entirely responsible; the killing of a 17-year-old in a bar fight last August did little to help Faliraki's image. But the incident is unlikely to have generated the furore it did without the TV show having primed the public mood. Whatever the cause, bookings have fallen through the floor.

So have our young hedonists come to the overdue realisation that Faliraki rhymes with tacky? Have we called time on the mass pub crawls, binge boozing and its attendant army of brawling lads? Are we turned off by the slurred bragging of girls who claim to have slept with 15 men in a fortnight? Are we now in the market for a slightly more sophisticated week in the sun?

Alas, no. The precise opposite is true. Local police have responded to the bad press last year by clamping down on drunkenness, public sex and loutish excess. Faliraki has a brand new police station with officers trained by the Lancashire constabulary. Presumably the holiday hooligans will now be facing standards of public behaviour closer to those which apply back home. And that's no fun.

So they're off to the other fleshpots of the Mediterranean, and the Canaries. The unrepentant Club Reps series is moving on to Gran Canaria to film in the appropriately named Playa del Ingles. The Foreign Office is warning that this alone may be enough to attract an invasion of ex-Faliraki hardcore. Other places being touted as this summer's no-holds-barred destinations include Malia in Crete, Kavos in Corfu, good old Ayia Napa in Cyprus and yes, Kardamena which also hopes to benefit from the Faliraki diaspora. Book now if you are gagging for it. Avoid if you feel a surge of nausea coming on.

I is for Immobile

Making decisions about where not to go has never been easier. Providing a corrective to the eager gush of brochure-speak, doomsayers from insurance companies, consultants to the travel industry and any number of government and NGO websites will between them give paranoid travellers all the wherewithal they need to stay at home.

The Foreign Office website ( www.fco.gov.uk) is an essential first destination for anyone not really wishing to go anywhere. Their remit is security - and a quick trawl through the website will not only put your holiday plans for Iraq on hold, but will also make you think carefully about Indonesia, Iran, Israel, India - most countries, in fact, which begin with I. Even Iceland, which has no history of terrorism, carries the most spurious warning: "Iceland shares with the rest of the world a risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks".

If it is health you want to worry about try the World Health Organisation site (www.who.int). Here you find the latest on dengue fever in Indonesia, yellow fever in Burkina Faso and Sars in China. If those countries and epidemics seem a touch remote, how about the more familiar scourge of the tummy bug? Last week a consultant hired by a large holiday company spilled the beans (to coin a phrase) to The Mail on Sunday. Bottom of the pops (so to speak) was the Dominican Republic with 38 per cent reporting dodgy digestion, followed by Egypt (35 per cent), Tunisia and Cuba (28 per cent) and Mexico (26 per cent).

With the safe-to-visit world shrinking at an alarming rate we probably don't need to know that US insurance broker Aon has produced a world map detailing "Risks in Global Film Making". Targeted at Hollywood film-makers planning location shoots, the information, the company says, holds good for most business travellers. Their list of riskiest countries by categories includes Congo, Laos and Thailand (disease), Turkmenistan, Solomon Islands and Myanmar (medical care), Brazil, Colombia and Georgia (crime), Colombia again, Philippines and Mexico (kidnapping and ransom), Colombia yet again, Russia and, no surprise, Nigeria (corruption and organised crime).

The good news is from Morocco, which has seen its rating for kidnap and ransom lowered. And yeah - Greenland is looking excellent.

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