Faliraki used to be just another small Greek tourist resort struggling to be different from all the other small Greek tourist resorts struggling to be different. And having, as they say, "done Greece", I can understand how difficult that is. After a few retsinas everywhere starts to look the same. The answer was to have a unique selling point. In my day Ios did backpackers, Mykonos did gays, Rhodes did poshies and Corfu did families. And judging by the recent kerfuffle, it seems Faliraki has put itself on the map as a sin-bin.
The place became infamous when SMG TV productions spotted its potential for debauchery and cast it as the lead location in an ITV docu-series following the lives and loves of Club 18-30 tour reps, such as Tayo Idowu pictured below, and their guests. The prospect of so much free television time gave the tour operator a rush of blood to the head.
As reality TV ideas go, Club Reps was the kind of programme that makes TV executives moist, tour operators greedy and local people nervous. It fed on the hapless exploits of pissed youths and simultaneously generated an appetite for the experience. Since the series was broadcast, thousands of pale-faced young hopefuls have flocked to the resort with the sole intention of living out the vomit, Viagra and tequila squeezer storylines they saw on television. And like all good tour operators, Club 18-30 has done its best to deliver on all fronts. Aware that its market is mainly groups of skint teenagers intent on getting wasted and getting laid, Club 18-30 has reinterpreted the "package holiday" concept, ditched any pretensions towards quality and pared down its product to provide nothing more than a charter flight and a bed.
Cheap digs in the sun for you and all your mates is an attractive proposition, but Club 18-30 and the other operators took things one stage further and threw in boozing trips as well. If the club reps took groups of tourists into local bars they got a commission from the owners and the tourists got a free drink. The reps soon realised that if they kept up the pace they could usher their ashen troops to up to 10 bars in one night. That's 10 free drinks for little Gemma before she starts on the slammers that her new best friends have just set up on the bar for her.
Unused to such large quantities of alcohol, inhibitions were shed as hordes of British teenagers lived out the Club Reps fantasy. And the reps joined in. They couldn't simply escort their punters around and tell them when it was time to go to bed. They had to make sure everyone had fun, so they upped the ante. Big time. In early August, holiday reps outraged the local community when two female reps performed oral sex on two male colleagues on a stage on a public beach as hundreds of shocked holidaymakers looked on. As they camped it up for the cameras in their heads, the tour operators and their teenage fan club forgot that they were not in the Big Brother house but on a small island in Greece where - and is it any wonder? - the locals were getting more and more incensed by their lewd and drunken behaviour. The Greeks were also aware that their country was being broadcast to the British nation as a hellhole of corruption.
Now, after the fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old youth in a drunken brawl, the locals have decided to shoot back with their very own version of reality TV. The reps in the fellatio event were filmed by a local businessman who handed the tape to the police as evidence and Gemma Gunning, the 18-year-old student who stripped naked in a "Miss Bottom" contest, was secretly filmed by detectives who promptly arrested her. She was charged with indecent exposure but her parents immediately flew out to the resort and bought out her prison sentence for £1,675. Although the Greek authorities have been criticised for allowing defendants to buy their way out of sentences of under two years, it is clear that the Greeks have no intention of filling their jails with British teenagers. They simply want the tour operators, the tour reps, and their clientele to sober up and treat their country with a little respect. It's not a lot to ask, and if, in order to do this, it means issuing locals and officials with video cameras, then so be it. No doubt SMG productions will be trying to buy the footage in due course.
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