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Sobering news for hotels and companies that promote ‘binge tourism’

The Catalan Government wants to put a stop to ‘binge tourism’ and will therefore expel from the Catalan Tourism Agency (ACT) those establishments which promote it. The decision came after a meeting with representatives from the Association of Tourism Employers of the Counties of Penedès and Garraf (ADEPG). Director General of Tourism Marian Muro called on businessmen of the sector “to be brave” and preserve Catalonia as a prestigious tourist destination and “contribute” so that its image “won’t be damaged”. Indeed, an operator that organised the so-called ‘Karibean Spring Break’ in Salou, which was promoted directly to young foreigners and used binge drinking and the expectation of sex as a promotional tool to lure the young tourists, has withdrawn this tourism package from the market.

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17 May 2016 07:00 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (CNA).- The Catalan Government has stayed committed to its decision to strike the names of those establishments which promote ‘binge tourism’ from the Hallmark of Quality, a symbol that means a certain establishment has met all the satisfactory tourism requirements. Director General of Tourism, Marian Muro, described the practice of promoting binge drinking and binge tourism as “damaging to the image of Catalonia” and assured that removing the certifications from the Catalan Tourist Board (ACT) from these companies would be a positive step forward for both the image and tourism of Catalonia. In this vein, she called the businessmen of the sector “to be brave” and preserve Catalonia as a prestigious tourist destination. Recently, an operator that organised the so-called ‘Karibean Spring Break’ in Salou, which was promoted directly to young foreigners and used binge drinking and the expectation of sex as a promotional tool to lure the young tourists, has withdrawn this tourism package from the market.


This will be sobering news for holiday makers that come to Catalan shores to take advantage of such offers. It is almost seven years since Catalonia passed a similar law which banned the ‘Happy Hour’ promotions that some hotels and bars offered to the public. These promotions offered two-for-the-price-of-one drinks or half-price drinks for a limited period of time, and were seen as encouraging binge drinking and attracting the wrong type of tourism. The ban on ‘Happy Hour’ promotions in 2009 had a very positive effect on tourism, and ‘binge tourism’ is having as much of a negative effect on the image of Catalonia today.

The Director General of Tourism wants employers to be “brave” on the issue and not to forget that it is up to them to assure that the image of Catalonia ceases to be damaged by such practices. The Government made these statements after a meeting with representatives from the Association of Tourism Employers of the Counties of Penedès and Garraf (ADEPG).

Muro argued that “tourism is something for everyone” and stressed the importance of involvement and the “awareness” of employers and business associations who currently have these cheap alcohol offers in place to lure patrons into their respective establishments. Muro assured everyone that the Government can examine these premises to make sure that they are compliant with the regulations in place.

Brave decisions by Councillors

The Tourism Councillor of Lloret de Mar, Joan Gou, said that the decision “is very brave and that the local municipality has been promoting this idea for years”. In 2012, Lloret de Mar received approval for stricter civil ordinances in relation to antisocial behaviour in public and the councillor argues that the measure has taken off. “Some time ago we worked to pacify Lloret and place ourselves outside the model of binge tourism” he argued. That is why the town of Lloret strongly agrees with the announcement by the Director General of Tourism because they also believe it can help improve the image of the municipality. “We believe it is a wise decision that is in line with what we promote here in Lloret” he added. In addition, the councillor believes that this measure will allow them to “point out and discriminate against” a number of employers that have not taken steps to ensure that they are complying with new regulations. “From the standpoint of the brand image of a country there are spots that do not share the majority view of tourism”, he said. Binge tourism is an “uncivil business attitude”, he said, and, therefore, believes that any company that benefits from subsidies or public housing should not be able to promote this type of practice anymore.

Moreover, the mayor recalled that the municipality has already undertaken several initiatives to combat these practices and held that 99.9% of the employers have understood its concerns. In 2014, the council reported a tour operator under the Calella tourism brand for promoting an alcohol festival. This legal case still remains pending. The same operator (Playa y Fiesta) was reported to the council for promoting establishments like hotels '100% Fiesta'. At the request of most entrepreneurs, this section of its website disappeared. “I think the message has been understood and most businessmen have good business practice regarding tourism models”, he assured. “I think Calella has less work to do than in other towns”, said the Mayor of Salou.

The call for the collaboration of employers, unions and associations comes after towns like Lloret de Mar, Salou and Calella applauded the decision of the Government to remove the seals and certifications of Catalan tourism businesses that promote 'binge tourism'. These local councils believe it will strengthen the decisions made \u200B\u200Bat local level and will help in the improvement of the quality of tourism in the areas. Muro said that to achieve the overall goal, the removal of ACT seals and certifications is essential in order to regenerate the image of these coastal areas.

Authorities from several countries involved in the success

The operator that organised the so-called ‘Karibean Spring Break’ in Salou, which was promoted directly to young foreigners and used binge drinking and the expectation of sex as a promotional tool to lure the young tourists, has withdrawn this tourism package from the market.

Muro celebrated the news of the withdrawal of the Karibean Spring Break promotion in Salou and announced that the Government will continue acting against companies that promote the "tourism of binge drinking" and "damage" the image of Catalonia as a tourist destination.

Following the advertising of this tourism package of sex and booze, the tourism board warned the tour operators that these types of promotions where frowned upon because they did not promote Catalonia in a positive light, and that promoting binge and sex tourism would lead to the Government having no choice but to remove the operators from the Hallmark of Quality.

This operation is in fact taking place with the help of the authorities in other countries, from which other operators are working. “Working together with these authorities is essential in the battle against binge tourism, and in the restoration of the image of Catalonia”, assured the director General of Tourism.

Muro also thanked the "job done by the sector and the local administration" in the fight against such practices and highlighted that the Government will continue to crack down on those who damage the image of tourism in Catalonia and do not conform to the type of tourism advertising and promoting that would have a positive impact on the image of Catalonia.

The tourism board is dedicated to continuing the task that they have set, by setting potential penalties for operators that refuse to conform. These penalties would be enforced if an operator fails inspections from any of the different departments of the Government. This would then result in the withdrawal of the operator’s Hallmark of Quality, or prevent their participation in trade fairs, workshops and promotions on social networks.

However, the Director General of Tourism wanted to highlight the differences between the 'Karibean Spring Break' in Salou and the events known generically as a Spring Break. While the first is a definite proposal by an operator that promotes tourism based on sex and alcohol, the second is an international expression that refers to a vacation during the month of May. “No acts will be against companies that bring young tourists who want to enjoy our destination with healthy and correct behaviour”, said Muro.

Currently about 280,000 businesses, which equates to 58% of all tourist businesses, already comply with regulations in relation to tourism. In fact, the Director of Tourism has defended the government's intention to regulate the Catalan economy collaboratively. “We demand equal conditions for all types of tourist offers and we must not allow digital platforms to give coverage to illegal deals”, said Marian Muro on the issue of online bookings and holidays deals. Muro is also adamant that Catalonia can find “a balance between the demands of visitors and the respect of citizens' rights and interests of our local merchants”.

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  • Youngster drinking on the street, during their holidays in Lloret de Mar (by ACN)

  • Youngster drinking on the street, during their holidays in Lloret de Mar (by ACN)