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The Independent Travel
If you are the typical holidaymaker, then you have a serious drink problem. This alarming news is provided in a press release from First Choice, Britain's third-largest tour operator. The company is seeking to drum up business for its all-inclusive holidays, where you can over- indulge day and night. Its survey intends to show that all-inclusives are better value by revealing evidence of Rioja rip-offs and over-the- odds ouzo.

The problem, as far as I can detect from the press release, is that you and I are spending too much money on too little drink. The company says that the average adult on holiday in Spain spends at least pounds 7.40 per day on the following: one glass of wine, a bottle of beer and a local spirit and mixer.

If First Choice operated to Norway or Sweden, I could understand its concern for our spending money - Scandinavia has a well-deserved reputation for charging social drinkers anti-social prices. But I was surprised to learn we are being taken for such a ride by bartenders in Spain. After all, this is the first choice country of First Choice holidaymakers.

Lacking the wherewithal to undertake front-line research in Europe, I headed this week for Britain's answer to all-inclusive holidays: Butlin's in Bognor Regis. My pounds 60 bought three nights in a comfortable chalet plus huge breakfasts and hearty suppers, but drinks were not included. So, for the purposes of comparison with foreign prices, I tackled the typical round as specified by First Choice at various Bognor bars.

A glass of non-lethal house wine, a bottle of Sol lager and a Moscow Mule (the fizzy vodka-based drink that is all the rage in Bognor this week) totals no more than pounds 5 and leaves you feeling a tad queasy.

So the holidaymakers First Choice talked to are paying half as much again as the happy campers in Bognor - strange, given that for many the main attraction of southern European countries is cheap drinks. The solution is either to book at Butlin's, or to shop around for a Spanish bar where a modest order of drinks costs less than pounds 7.40; I can suggest a few. Just go easy on those Moscow Mules.

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