Holidays & Travel

Beers on the beach and budgie smugglers – why the great British package holiday is an institution

A new book of photographs celebrates love affair with fly ‘n’ flops to Spain.

An ode to the package holiday
Image from package holiday book - people sat around a hotel pool in the 1960s An ode to the package holiday

Loved or loathed, package holidays have dramatically changed the way we travel. In fact, they’ve become a British institution.

Admittedly, we’ve come a long way since days when ‘strange’ food and foreign lingo caused serious sweats and palpitations. But the idea of an all-inclusive fly ‘n’ flop is enjoying a renaissance, as price conscious travellers learn to appreciate their true value.

Package holiday makers

It all started in the 1960s when UK foreign travel soared and the annual number of British tourists doubled to five million, as companies like Thomas Cook, Horizon, Clarksons, Intasun and Thomson became household names.

When Provision One (a policy which prohibited operators from selling package holidays for less than the cost of a standard return flight) was repealed in 1971, the big boom began.

Package holiday makers

A fortnight’s all-inclusive beach break in Spain cost around £76 per person (half a month’s average wage) and by 1972, over a third of all British tourists holidayed in Spain.

“It was cowboy country, like the beginning of the gold rush,” said Harry Goodman, the head of Intasun.

Package holiday makers

At around the same time, photographer Trevor Clark moved to Mallorca to set up a commercial studio. The Barking-born son of a door-to-door salesman, he learned camera skills during his RAF National Service and spent years after as a photographer on luxury cruise ships.

Package holiday makers

He arrived in Spain at the the tail-end of Franco’s dictatorship, when the economy was in dire need of investment. In response, the Ministry of Information and Tourism launched its ‘Spain is different’ ad campaign promising Europeans oodles of sea and sun.

Package holiday makers

By the 1970s, more than 100 hotels lined the beaches of Benidorm, and Mallorca had shifted from an agricultural to hospitality industry. Years later, Deputy Prime Minister Alfonso Guerra said: “The first tourists to arrive in bikinis did more for the transition than political speeches.” Even though two-pieces were initially a source of shock and horror.

Image from Package Holiday book

In a tribute to his father, photographer Trevor – and the humble package holiday – Jake Clark has published a collection of images which sum up a remarkable period in history that would change European culture forever.

The Package Holiday 1968-1985, compiled by Jake Clark, is published by Hoxton Mini Press, priced £18.95.