Britain asks Greece to cut down "booze tourism"

Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:24pm EDT
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ATHENS (Reuters) - Britain urged Greece on Thursday to ban organized "bar-hopping" tours and clamp down on doctored drinks to help stop young British tourists getting into alcohol-related trouble, officials said.

British holidaymakers account for about a fifth of the 15 million tourists a year who visit Greece, one of Europe's top holiday destinations. But young Britons have gained notoriety for drunken, violent and sometimes indecent behavior.

Police officials from both countries met on the island of Zakynthos to discuss the problem on Thursday. Britain has already urged young tourists not to drink too much while on holiday in Greece.

"The British police officials called for more controls on bars to prevent drink adulteration and the illegal sale of alcohol to minors, and asked police to use less violence when arresting drunken tourists," said a Greek police official who declined to be named.

British embassy officials declined to comment.

According to British Foreign Office data, 16- to 20-year olds represent a third of all Britons visiting Greece, but account for more than 70 percent of Britain's annual 800-900 consular cases there.

In May, 17 British men went on trial dressed in nun's habits after being arrested for baring their bottoms in public on the island of Crete.

Greece's conservative government vowed to clean up resorts last year, saying much drink-related misconduct was due to profit-hungry bar owners supplying tourists with drinks adulterated with industrial alcohol.

Flyers, beer mats and business cards reading "If you drink too much, things can get out of control" will be handed out to British tourists on Greek islands this year as part of a British campaign titled "Another side to paradise."

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Kevin Liffey)