When chavs first burst on to the scene in their tacky tracksuits, designer baseball caps and oversized jewellery, Middle England shuddered.
A few years later, those concerns have been justified. Chavs have indeed taken over their world.
Taking upward mobility to new heights, the "chaveller" has become such a common figure abroad that the middle classes are opting for some of the most far-flung locations in the world to avoid them. According to the UK and European Travel Report, instead of heading for the beaches of Spain or Portugal, the chav-allergic tourist is more likely to explore countries such as Mozambique or Libya.
"The prospect of going somewhere the chavs favour is too awful to contemplate for the middle classes," said Julian Rolfe, of the market research company Synovate which undertook the research, unveiled on the opening day of World Travel Market in London. "For the middle classes, going somewhere such as Chile, Libya or Mozambique has real bragging appeal and sets them apart from the crowd."
According to the report, the rise of cheap air fares has propelled the "chav" around the world. The trend has gathered pace because "chavellers" feel more able to quit their well-paid jobs or trades, knowing they can pick them up again when they return home.
Mr Rolfe said: "Chavs tend to live at home with parents. It's convenient, they've greater freedoms than ever before and more disposable income to spend on travel. The internet, and the growth of travel magazines, means they have more information available to them. And, of course, they have fewer responsibilities and don't fear for their jobs. It all adds up to a willingness to take extended trips."
Demand for travel to countries once considered unfeasible because of remoteness or strangeness has increased sharply in the past five years.
According to the Office of National Statistics, between 2002 and last year, visits to China rose by 35 per cent and India by 40 per cent. Visits to lesser-known Continental countries, particularly in eastern Europe such as Bulgaria, are also rising fast.
ITC Classics, an upmarket tour operator that sells fortnightly breaks for about £5,000 per person, said holidaymakers were seeking smaller islands to explore in the Caribbean rather than the well-known resorts. In the Gulf, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi were favoured by the discerning rather than Dubai, which has been developing mass tourism.
"Take the Blairs - OK they were staying at Cliff Richards' villa in Barbados - but then they hired a yacht and took a tour of the Grenadines," said a spokeswoman.
"Our customers will say: 'We want to go off the beaten track. We want to have all the luxury we can have in Barbados or Marbella but we want somewhere new'."
Paul Tomasch, of Indochina Services, a tour operator specialising in south-east Asia, said Britons liked to combine culture with the beach in holidays to faraway places. He said tourism to Cambodia and Vietnam was booming.Reuse content