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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Club 18-30's controversial past
By Clare Matheson
BBC News Online business reporter

The antics of Club 18-30 reps in Greece have earned the company another bout of negative publicity. BBC News Online goes behind the headlines to look at a company that has dominated the youth holiday market for years.

Club 18-30 logo
Despite being for 18 to 30 year olds the brand is now 38 years old
Club 18-30 began life in 1965 when it took 580 yuppies to the Costa Brava, an event that the tour operator claims "made history".

Founded by the Horizon group, the brand was originally developed as a way for the company to fill unused seats on night flights to tourist destinations.

But Club 18-30 really came into its own in the 1970s and 1980s under the wing of ILG group, entering into common parlance as the generic name for youth holidays.

All change

Even though ILG later collapsed in 1991, Club 18-30 survived, and was rescued by a management buy-out and re-launched as "The Club".

Gran Canaria
Costa Brava
Costa Blanca
In 1994 it reverted to its old name, but by 1999 it was all change again after Thomas Cook Group bought the brand.

The group says it now owns 65% of the youth holiday market and takes more than 110,000 guests away each year - most expecting a break filled with sun, sea, sex and sangria.

And the formula seems to work.

In the financial year of 2001-2, Club 18-30 racked up sales worth 48m, and "still managed to achieve a good profit" despite only partly achieving its targets.

Sun, sea and sex

Holiday couples - Corbis
It's not all sex, sex, sex - according to Club 18-30

Club 18-30 prides itself on the belief: "Nothing is sacred, if it's going to be a good laugh then we're in."

That marketing has pulled in millions of holidaymakers, keen to align themselves with the party-loving attitude it promotes.

But that "in your face" label has attracted plenty of controversy.

In 1995, its tongue-in-cheek adverts earned it a place in the Advertising Standards Authority's Hall of Shame - it was the second most complained about firm that year.


The Saatchi & Saatchi ads generated 490 complaints centred on posters featuring the taglines "Beaver Espana" and "It's not all sex, sex, sex. There's a bit of sun and sea as well".

It's a product that's aimed at a very specific target audience who are not discouraged by publicity
David Smithson
Club 18-30 spokesman

Even today, Club 18-30 cannot steer clear of controversy.

Three of its reps have just been acquitted of organising bar crawls in Faliriki, despite a ban brought in last week after a man killed a tourist.

And last month, five of the firm's reps quit after allegedly taking part in "live sex acts" on a beach in the Greek resort of Kavos.

Future controversy

But will the latest upsets affect the firm?

Spokesman David Smithson said that "from past experience" the current controversy was unlikely to affect business.

Swimmers - Corbis
Will the latest scandals land the travel group in deep water?
"It's a product that's aimed at a very specific target audience who are not discouraged by publicity," he added.

A case in point, he described the raunchy 1990s advertising campaign as "successful" and achieving "its objective".

"It's a younger audience that tends to recognise these incidents are blown out of proportion by the media," Mr Smithson added.

"But that's not to say we like or seek negative publicity."

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