Club 18-30 has been fondly remembered this week as “the ultimate training ground” for many of today’s travel leaders after Thomas Cook confirmed it was axing the pioneering youth holiday brand.
Cook placed Club 18-30 “under review” in May and, despite what TTG understands to be a handful of offers over the summer to save the brand, Cook has decided to wind it down for good later this month.
“Having taken the summer to explore the options we have, in the absence of a viable alternative that makes sense for Thomas Cook or the brand, we decided Club 18-30 will close at the end of this season [October 27],” Cook’s chief of UK source market Ingo Burmester said in a statement.
TTG spoke to a number of senior travel figures who credited the brand, affectionately known just as Club, for kick-starting their careers in travel.
Launched in the late 1960s offering package holidays targeted at young singletons and couples, through cut-price air fares and bold advertising campaigns of the 1970s, Club 18-30 carved a market-leading niche and led to its acquisition by International Leisure Group (ILG) in 1982.
“I was only supposed to work there one year and then get a proper job,” recalls G Adventures’ managing director EMEA Brian Young (pictured above) who, aged 19, joined Club 18-30 as a rep in Majorca in 1988.
“So much of what I do now came from my time at Club – presentations, networking, sales. It was the ultimate training ground and it lit the fire for my travel career.”
Doug Turner, Jet2’s general manager of third party supply and distribution, worked for Club 18-30 at the same time as Young on its ski programme, as well as summers in Europe’s party destinations.
He was running its ski operations in Italy and France when ILG failed in 1991.
“Club’s heyday typified the era and the type of experiences that holidaymakers wanted,” he said. “You evolved what you did around the client and you had so much freedom.
“It’s very different now with customers’ tastes but that’s the same with music, fashion... times change. For our generation it’ll be remembered very fondly.”
Martin Makepeace, owner of the Ibiza Property Shop, worked his first season on the White Isle with Club 18-30 in 1991.
“You had to be a certain character to rep and there’s still such affinity between us,” he said. “[But] I think the brand will come back, there’s so much history there.”
Via a buyout and short-lived rebrand, the company was later integrated into Cook’s JMC (John Mason Cook) division in 1998.
Craig Davidson, Jet2holidays’ general manager trade sales, joined Club 18-30 in 2003 after his sister and brother-in-law suggested it.
“You were playing hard, but working really hard too, honing your business skills. It was all about the customer and creating the best experience,” said Davidson.
Teresa Nicholson, who led the brand as managing director between 2010 and 2013, recalled “the unwavering passion” staff in the UK and in-resort had for Club 18-30.
“You knew you were a part of something special,” she said.
Nathan Cable, co-founder of Guildford-based clubbing specialist Party Hard Travel, revealed the demise of Club 18-30 had prompted his business to expand its teams in the UK and overseas for summer 2019.
“People may say this type of holiday is outdated, but it’s just the way clubbing holidays are delivered that has changed,” he said. “We’ve had consecutive triple-digit growth for the past three years.”