Wednesday 19 December 2018

'Sun, sex and sea' - Club 18-30 to close after one final fling in Magaluf

The retirement of Thomas Cook's famous brand is no surprise for Greg Dickinson, who says Club 18-30 is 'outdated and irrelevant'...

A summer party at the beach... Photo: Deposit
A summer party at the beach... Photo: Deposit
Magaluf, Mallorca (Majorca)
Punta Ballena, Magaluf in 2014. Photo: JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images

Greg Dickinson

Like a warm bottle of beer, perched against a kerb after the wild night before – and then kicked over, to evaporate in the morning sun – Club 18–30 will soon disappear, leaving behind nothing but a regrettable whiff in the resort towns that it spilled into over the last 50 years.

Thomas Cook has announced that it is retiring Club 18–30 after putting the brand up for sale in May but failing to attract a buyer.

Founded in the Sixties to offer package holidays for young tourists, with a catchphrase of “sun, sex and sea”, Club 18–30 became a go-to tour operator for people travelling without their parents for the first time. At its peak, the company had 100,000 bookings per year.

Announcing the news, Thomas Cook’s UK chief executive Ingo Burmester said: “We are increasingly focused on our core own-brand hotel portfolio and feel that the Club 18-30 brand no longer fits in with our wider programme.

“Having taken the summer to explore our options we have, in the absence of a viable alternative that makes sense for Thomas Cook or the brand, decided that Club 18-30 will close at the end of this season.”

The final Club 18-30 package holiday will depart from Manchester on 27 October, landing in Magaluf in Mallorca.

Punta Ballena, Magaluf in 2014. Photo: JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images
Punta Ballena, Magaluf in 2014. Photo: JAIME REINA/AFP/Getty Images

My reaction to this news was one of surprise. Not that the Club 18–30 brand was on the way out, but that it still existed at all. It was a bit like discovering a Nineties Saturday-night TV host I was convinced had died is actually still alive and well and hoping for a new series.

As members of the travel press and blogosphere reminisce over the good old days of Inbetweeners-style escapes in Zante, Magaluf and Kavos, and try to figure out why Club 18–30 fizzled out, many have latched onto a phrase that featured in Thomas Cook’s 2018 Holiday Report: ‘ego travel’.

The idea is that travelling millennials (people aged between 22 and 37) once driven entirely by hedonism and libido, are now visiting places for the ‘Instagrammability’ of the destination.

To me (somebody who falls towards the latter end of the 18–30 bracket, but within it nonetheless) simplified theories like this indicate an industry that is as off-the-pulse as a DJ, eyes closed and arms raised, dropping Sex on Fire for the third time of the night.

There’s no denying that social media has had an enormous impact on where we travel and how we behave on holidays – and that’s everyone by the way, not just millennials. We can now see where our peers are travelling, while they’re out there – it is easy to forget that once upon a time, to see a friend's holiday snaps you had to go round to their house and flick through a photo album.

The photos are better now, too. An infinite number of takes and filters can go into capturing a beautiful moment on holiday. Even people of my age remember the days of ‘snap and hope for the best’ on a disposable camera. So, with widespread Wi-Fi and free data roaming in Europe, it’s only natural to want to share your memories as you go – whether for boasting purposes or to file them away in a digital memory bank, or a bit of both.

Magaluf, Mallorca (Majorca)
Magaluf, Mallorca (Majorca)

But there’s a tendency to blame all of society’s ills on the so-called Instagram generation, an increasingly irrelevant term for a platform with an ever-ageing demographic. The reason Club 18–30 died a death is not down to ‘ego travel’ – it’s because the entire concept of booking a package partying holiday through a company is woefully out of touch.

A page called 'Why 18–30' that appeared on the company’s website earlier this year, but which has since been removed, read a bit like the findings of a Parliamentary select committee attempting to evaluate what youngsters want on their holidays these days.

  1. Top reps.
  2. Buzzing events.
  3. Wild crowds.
  4. Legendary destinations.

No wonder the Google Trends chart of people searching for ‘Club 18–30’ over the last ten years projects such a sorry picture.

Of course some people aged 18–30 (probably moreso on the younger end of that spectrum) do still want a selection of this sacred recipe for the perfect partying holiday, but there are a number of reasons why they stopped booking through Club 18–30. The first is that the landscape of the travel industry is such that they can easily do it themselves.

An entire trip can be researched, planned and booked in a few browser tabs. Google’s algorithm will throw us in the right direction of where we should go, Skyscanner will compare our flights for us, then Airbnb, booking.com or another booking site will sort out the rest.

Another layer to the demise of Club 18–30 is that the thing at the very heart of the movement – club culture – has evolved and matured over the years.

The international festival business, for example, has exploded over the last decade, allowing people engaged in live and dance music the chance to curate a trip based on what they’re actually interested in – Outlook, Exit, Benicassim, Sziget, Sonar, Primavera Sound, Tomorrowland collectively lured tens of thousands of young holidaymakers over the summer – rather than leaving their night out in the hands of a “top rep”.

As the Club 18–30 brand passes away, Thomas Cook appears to have planned how it will continue to appeal to the demographic. Earlier this year the company announced its first Cook’s Club New Generation Hotel in Crete and they have since added another in Kos.

Describing the 148-room Crete complex, they say: “The hotel is stripped back to focus only on the things that matter to a new generation of traveller: well-designed, simple rooms with great food, excellent drinks and a soundtrack from DJs that surround the pool from daytime through to sundown.”

“It’s our opportunity to demonstrate that Thomas Cook is leading the way in bringing a sense of urban cool to the beach,” said Remo Masala of Thomas Cook’s own-brand hotels.

To its credit, this model of soft-clubbing for the design conscious traveller is certainly a step in the right direction – or at least less embarrassingly far away from cultural relevance than Club 18–30 – but there will be a fair few people of my age with their face in their palms at the thought of a man their dad’s age saying “bringing a sense of urban cool to the beach”.

Read more:

Magaluf now an upmarket resort? The infamous party destinations enjoying a bold makeover

Telegraph.co.uk

Editors Choice

Travel Insider Newsletter

Get the best travel tips, deals and insights straight to your inbox.

Also in Life