Thomas Cook announced this week that it’s looking to offload the infamous Club 18-30 brand and focus on ‘cooler’ holidays.
This announcement won’t mean much to anyone under the age of 25 but for many over the age of 40 and especially those that have worked in the holiday industry, it would have brought about some misty eyed nostalgia.
When it comes to holiday branding Club 18-30 was the forerunner of the ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ brigade. A club for youngsters who just wanted to party but ‘Club’ as it was affectionately known was more than just a brand, at it’s peak it was an ethos and a movement.
It was the stuff of legends and not always for the right reasons. The 80’s and 90’s were it’s heyday when hundreds of thousand of youngsters were herded around on excursions that mainly included sausages, sangria and sex.
‘Club’ was the living embodiment of the saucy seaside postcard in the Mediterranean sunshine with a perpetual nod and a wink but the real difference were the ‘reps’ that worked for the company. Probably the most dedicated and hard working overseas people you could ever wish to meet. They were almost brainwashed to wear their heart and soul on their sleeves along with that iconic badge on their chests. Many left good jobs to earn peanuts but living and working abroad was too good an opportunity to turn down.
In reality the job wasn’t what they expected, it was a hard slog, propped up by caffeine, junk food and other substances and many reps couldn’t hack it and left within weeks but there were always more willing youngsters ready to step into the theatre of excess.
Before reality TV and social media gave away all the secrets, Club 18-30 could pretty much do what it wanted without any bother. Beach parties, bar crawls, party nights, BBQ’s: You name it, they did it. Large groups of youngsters being shepherded about by reps of similar age but with one major difference: A loud booming voice. The loud voice was always the most important pre-requisite for Club Reps, he or she who shouted loudest usually got the job.
At it’s 90’s peak, Club 18-30 were taking hundreds of thousands of youngsters overseas for the first time to destinations such as Mallorca, Benidorm, Corfu, Rhodes, Turkey and many more. But one destination always took prime position: San Antonio, Ibiza.
San Antonio in the 80’s and 90’s was perfect for Club 18-30, a marriage made in hormone heaven. Lots of small family hotels that were created from the 70’s boom of British demand for cheap holidays in the sunshine. Basic hostelries with little more than a bed, a bog and a window. Club clients didn’t need anymore as they wouldn’t get too much time to sleep. The whole holiday was designed around being out and about, drinking and partying.
Meet in the bar, straight to an excursion, drop off at a bar then straight to a club. The Star Club in San An became Club 18-30’s spiritual late night home, the back bar full of reps on any given night. In bed by 4am, up at 9am. 5 hours sleeps was more than enough for Club Reps.
Then ‘Ibiza Uncovered’ happened. This was the myth buster of all myth busters and suddenly the Island was exposed to the outside world. The clamour for more Ibiza based reality TV brought about ‘Club Reps’ which followed new recruits and ran for 3 years and 36 episodes.
Club 18-30 had always worked on the policy of ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ so it probably seemed like a good idea at the time but it also signalled the beginning of the end.
By the mid-noughties tastes and perceptions were changing and after an initial spike in demand due to the TV exposure the brand began to wane. Low cost airlines were now in full flow and independent holidays were easier to come by. Being herded around wasn’t acceptable any more and camera phones delivered truths rather than myths.
The social media age brought about a sea of change and the hard truth is that the insta-generation wants to be perceived as cool and Club 18-30 isn’t part of the plan for now. Who’s to say that it won’t stage a remarkable comeback but it’s doubtful in a market that decides with its feet and it’s smartphone.
Now it’s all about niche festivals for like minded individuals, beach clubs for the gym-hardened groups of preening wannabes and most importantly the endless search for that perfect profile pic. Sombreros, bucking broncos and as much sangria during the meal simply doesn’t cut it anymore.
After the demise of other ‘yoof’ brands such as Twenty’s, Freestyle and Escapades it looks like it’s also ‘adiós’ to Club 18-30, and with it goes a million memories from a million youngsters who were introduced to the Med by a company that revelled in notoriety and excess. Hedonism has changed to Instagramism but ‘Club’ rightfully deserves its place in the holiday hall of fame, or maybe that should be infamy.