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5 Aug, 2003

Alcohol Summit to Convene in New South Wales

The impact of alcohol consumption in the travel & tourism industry is not well-researched. It should be. In the tradition of not wanting to bite the hand that feeds it, the industry steers clearly does not want to upset its multi-million dollar sponsors and supporters.

The impact of alcohol consumption in the travel & tourism industry is not well-researched. It should be. In the tradition of not wanting to bite the hand that feeds it, the industry steers clearly does not want to upset its multi-million dollar sponsors and supporters. Yet, the reports in this Newswire dispatch show why the negative impacts of alcohol consumption, both on visitors and in the workplace, need to be recognised and dealt with as vigorously as other social, cultural and environmental issues.



Alcohol consumption is not a well-researched issues in the travel & tourism industry. However, there is no doubt of the close linkage between the two — from duty-free sales to wine tourism, this industry survives and thrives on it. It fills government tax coffers, livens up parties and, consumed in moderation, is known to have some health benefits.

However, the benefits will be a minor part of the agenda of the New South Wales Alcohol Summit when it convenes in Sydney from 26-29 August 2003. Instead, it will be what the NSW Government calls the “tragic consequences of its abuse” that afflicts many Australians: Violence in the home, loss of income, death and disease, reduced public amenity and family breakdown.

In the United States, the loss to companies due to alcohol and drug-related abuse by employees totals $100 billion a year, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI). In Canada, the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission has estimated the annual cost of workers absent or tardy due to substance abuse to be approximately $400 million just in Alberta alone.

At the same time, however, alcohol is of substantial economic value to the community. In Australia, annual retail sales of alcoholic products total approximately A$13 billion. Information posted on the web related to the Alcohol Summit identifies the hospitality and tourism industries as among those that thrive on the sale of alcohol. Many others are involved in the manufacture, distribution and advertising of alcoholic products. “Accordingly, industries associated with alcohol, either directly or indirectly, are a source of employment for a substantial proportion of the population,” the conference preamble says.

The Summit will bring together alcohol experts, families, industry, representatives of interest groups, community leaders and Members of Parliament to examine existing approaches to alcohol abuse. Following it closely will be representatives of those powerful lobbying groups that profit from alcohol sales. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on August 3, “the Alcohol Summit is a political minefield because of the powerful vested interests in the beer, wine, liquor, hotel, club, restaurant, advertising and tourist industries.”

Says the report, “It is a mega-billion-dollar industry that is fiercely opposed to the type of regulations that have been imposed on the tobacco industry.” Although alcohol is a major cause of drug-related death in NSW, second only to tobacco, the liquor industry is ready for a major battle at the summit to resist recommendations such as:

  • Increasing the price of alcohol to make it less affordable.
  • Reducing trading hours in pubs and clubs.
  • Restricting television advertising until after 9.30pm.
  • Banning alcohol sponsorship of sporting events.
  • Placing health warnings on labels.

The industry is, however, supportive of increasing penalties on drunk drivers and stricter laws on serving drunk patrons, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. It said: “In a move designed to placate the industry, a meeting of the Government’s powerful Liquor Industry Consultative Committee was told that any recommendations adopted by the summit would not be implemented immediately.

“Instead, the recommendations would be subject to the availability of funds and state budgeting and would, in any case, need a ‘long lead-time’ before they came into force.” Special Minister of State John Della Bosca, who is in charge of the summit, was quoted as saying that the aim was to produce ‘practical solutions’ to the ‘tragic consequences of alcohol abuse’. “Like the Drug Summit, this will be a call to individual and community action,” he said, noticeably avoiding “government action,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying.

Research shows that alcohol and drug abuse by employees cause many expensive problems for business and industry ranging from absenteeism, lost productivity, injuries, and an increase in health insurance claims. These staggering numbers do not include the “pain and suffering” aspects, which cannot be measured in economic terms.

According to the US NCADI, alcohol and drug users are far less productive, use three times as many sick days, are more likely to injure themselves or someone else, are five times more likely to file worker’s compensation claims.

One survey found that nine percent of heavy drinkers and 10 percent of drug users had missed work because of a hangover, six percent had gone to work high or drunk in the past year, and 11 percent of heavy drinkers and 18 percent of drug users had skipped work in the past month.

Remarkably, new research shows it is the social drinkers – not the hard-core alcoholics or problem drinkers – who are responsible for most of lost productivity, according to a Christian Science Monitor article, specifically tying the hangover issue to production in the workplace

This study also found that it was managers, not hourly employees, who were most often drinking during the workday. Twenty-three percent of upper managers and 11 percent of first-line supervisors reported having a drink during the workday, compared with only eight percent of hourly employees. The study also found that 21 percent of employees said their own productivity had been affected because of a co-worker’s drinking.

When the issue of workplace substance abuse is addressed by establishing comprehensive programs, it is a “win-win” situation for both employers and employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. A study of the economic impact of substance abuse treatment in Ohio found significant improvements in job-related performance: A 91 percent decrease in absenteeism; an 88 percent decrease in problems with supervisors; a 93 percent decrease in mistakes in work, and; a 97 percent decrease in on-the-job injuries.

The NSW Government has posted an extensive amount of data related to the social, economic, domestic and medical costs of alcohol consumption on the summit’s website: http://www.alcoholsummit.nsw.gov.au

Information about managing alcohol in the work place: http://alcoholism.about.com/library/blnaa44.htm



Young people are particularly vulnerable, both as marketing targets and ultimately, victims. The following two reports downloaded from the Internet show what happened when one group of parents objected.



Parents Very Concerned about High-Risk Drinking; 73 Percent Agree that Alcohol Producers Should End their Association with Spring Break

Chicago, IL û All-you-can-drink specials, booze cruises, “ à endless nights of music, partying, sex and anything but textbooks à” may be the perfect lure to college students planning their spring break, but a poll released by the American Medical Association’s A Matter of Degree program shows that 91 percent of parents say it’s time to stop spring break marketing and promotional practices that promote dangerous drinking.

The majority of parents (56 percent) are completely unaware that tour companies market spring break destinations directly to college students, emphasizing heavy drinking and sex. These promotions arrive by email, campus advertisements and direct mail. Eighty-eight percent of parents and 71 percent of adults say they are outraged by this practice. The study of 500 U.S. residents 21 years of age and older was conducted in late February (2002) by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates of Washington, DC. Margin of error is +/- 4.2% at the 95th confidence interval level.

More than 80 percent of parents said they were concerned about college students drinking alcohol during spring break. Topping the list of concerns were students having unprotected sex (71 percent); students driving while intoxicated or with a drunken driver (70 percent); and female students getting raped (68 percent).

Irresponsible Industry Promotions

“Unfortunately, spring break is no longer an innocent respite from the rigors of academics, it’s potentially life threatening,’ says J. Edward Hill, MD. “The tourism and alcohol industries promote heavy drinking and sex, creating an environment that can lead to rape, fatal injuries and death by alcohol poisoning. We agree with parents that we must put an end to these promotions that target students, most of whom are underage.”

One such promotion, created by the Panama City Beach (Florida) Convention and Visitors Bureau, has appeared in campus newspapers throughout the country. This 12-page insert consists of spring break advertisements from hotels and clubs, many featuring an endless supply of alcohol. One example reads, “Plus, pay 5 bucks, and you can drink all the beer you can handle û every day.”

Revelry to Tragedy

A Panama City Beach spring break trip turned to tragedy for 19-year-old Andrew Guglielmi, who died April 2, 2000, after falling from a third-floor hotel balcony after a day of partying. Andrew’s father remembers his son’s academic and athletic accomplishments, and the 11 days spent at his bedside in the hospital intensive care unit.

“Over those days we watched as a steady stream of bleary eyed parents arrived from all over the country to see their sons or daughters lying in a coma,” Frank Guglielmi recalls. “Many of them never got to see their children before they died. It was devastating. Parents and students need to recognize that there is a dark side to the spring break madness they see on MTV.”

A Problem of Underage Drinking

Eighty-eight percent of parents said they think that spring break is primarily a problem of underage drinking, because many college students are younger than the legal drinking age of 21, and 61 percent believe that underage students are more likely to drink than 21-year-olds. In addition to U.S. spring break destinations, American tour companies, in partnership with alcohol producers, promote destinations outside the country where the drinking age is 18 – a key attraction.

Regarding popular Mexico spring destinations such as Cancun where the legal drinking age is 18:

  • 77 percent of adults and 68 percent of parents say that alcohol companies are using spring break in Mexico to introduce underage students to their products;
  • 82 percent of adults and 70 percent of parents agree that children even younger than 18 are drinking; and

The beer and liquor industries say that they are not promoting underage drinking by encouraging alcohol use at spring break locations in Mexico, but 64 percent of parents agree that this practice takes advantage of American youth under 21 and influences them to drink.

Additional Survey Findings

Parents support measures to reduce high-risk drinking:

  • 85 percent would limit admission to bars and nightclubs to adults 21 and older;
  • 99 percent say that bar owners should be required to train their staff to better recognize underage or intoxicated persons;
  • 92 percent think that bar owners should be doing more to enforce the 21-year-old drinking age; and
  • 70 percent of parents say they are unwilling to pay for their child’s spring break.

Alternative Spring Breaks A Growing Trend

The study found that 94 percent of parents would require colleges to actively encourage students to consider spring break options that emphasize community service. All 10 universities of A Matter of Degree: The National Effort to Reduce High-Risk Drinking among College Students (AMOD), support alternative spring break activities for their students. This year, for example, Lehigh University is supporting four alternative spring break trips, two of which work with the Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge. Florida State University offers Alternative Break Corps, which organizes spring break alternatives and travel to such destinations as Panama and the Ukraine.



Source: http://alcoholism.about.com/library/weekly/aa030305a.htm

One popular spring break destination for U.S. college students has removed any mention of alcohol from its promotional and advertising material after it was criticised last year in a report from the American Medical Association.

The Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau again this year placed inserts in college newspapers around the country to promote the resort as a spring break destination, but missing from those inserts are any mention of bargains related to alcohol.

Instead, this year’s inserts urge responsible drinking and offers safety tips for students partying on the Beach. The Bureau advises students: “If you came with a friend, leave with that friend. … Call a cab. … Refuse a drink of any kind from a stranger. … Realize that drinking laws will be enforced.”

“We hope that students take a minute to realize that their safety and fun depend on the decisions they make throughout spring break,” Bob Warren, the tourist bureau’s president and chief executive officer, told reporters.

“We’re very pleased that communities are changing,” said Richard Yoast, director of AMA’s office of alcohol and drug abuse. “Our job was to bring attention to the problem.”



Some university students are researching the issue for their thesis. Here is an excerpt from http://www.drugtext.org/library/articles/sellars.htm

Alethea Sellars, University of Hertfordshire, Department of Tourism, Business School.

There is a wide publicity for ‘holidays from hell’, highlighting the many things that can go wrong on holiday. These include tourists falling from balconies, jumping into swimming pools that are too shallow, and motorbike and car accidents. The associated risks with ‘youth tourism’ are sun tanning, sexual health and accidents – often related to alcohol and drug use.

One segment of the ‘youth tourism’ market generally ranges from 15 to 30 years old, with the associated product mainly selling sex and dance music. In brochures there are lots of plug pages with big name DJs. In Ibiza (one of the Ballearic Islands, off the southern coast of Spain) the ‘super’ clubs are very well known and are big attractions. Hedonism is very much sold, the idea of having a great time, relaxing and socialising with lots of beautiful, glamorous people. The images are of models laughing, smiling and drinking, with nothing of the resort. Dance music and drugs have been overtly linked and so the Managing Director of ‘Club 18-30’ believes it is important to be pro-active on the issue of drugs.

He says that “we have no wish to set ourselves up as moral guardians but it is our responsibility to take up the initiative on our clients behalf”. They are not preaching but realise the need for education and awareness. Alcohol abuse and its effects are a problem in later life as well as in causing accidents, violence and coma. Michael Birkett, the former Vice Consulate to Ibiza who resigned in 1998 said in an interview, “We have 70 deaths a summer. Many were the direct result of too many drugs and drinks; people got knocked down or drowned in their own vomit”. Alcohol is a major part of the youth tourist experience and there is an increase in alcohol consumption as well as the mixing of it with other drugs. There are also the sexual consequences of being too drunk to know who you are sleeping with.

There are four main parties that should be responsible for informing young package tourists: the tour operator, travel agents, the government and other tourists themselves. Travel agents could give advice about risks, although at the end of the day we cannot get them to accept too much responsibility because they are selling an ideal and a dream. Disciplinary approaches are not the way forward. It is all well and good developing policies but if the tourists have not taken them on board then they are not going to work.



Excerpt from the Preliminary Background Paper prepared for the NSW Alcohol Summit by NSW Office of Drug Policy, The Cabinet Office, April 2003

Alcohol plays a significant part in adolescent culture û it is very much a group activity for younger age groups. There is some evidence to suggest that many underage drinkers set out to get drunk and get drunk quickly.

The 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported that more than 60 percent of young adults and 45 percent of teenagers have at least one drinking session per year that is risky or high risk for short term harm.

In 2002, Roy Morgan Research conducted an Alcohol Awareness Survey for the Salvation Army.

The key findings were reported as:

  • Binge drinking for both young males and females is significant with 35 percent of teenage males admitting to drinking in one day during the last month between 11 and 30 alcoholic drinks and 22 percent of teenage females drinking between 9 and 30 drinks.
  • 63 percent of young people have had their first drink by the age of fourteen û 14 percent by the age of 11 years.
  • People under 24 years state their reason for drinking as “to fit in on social occasions”. More women than men drink to fit in on social occasions and more men than women drink “to relax”.



A search of the Internet showed that at least one university school of hospitality and tourism has designed a course to raise awareness of alcohol-related violence across the industry generally, and help to reduce it.

The Welsh School of Hospitality, Tourism & Leisure Management Institution University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, is offering the course to students or to small groups of employees working within the Licensed Trade Industry. Its aim is to help both groups to understand their legal and social rights and responsibilities in order to be able to maintain a safe, professional and sociable environment.

The university believes this area of study adds to its BA (Hons) and HND Licensed Trade programmes. Its brief says, “Whilst knowledge of the product, primarily alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, is fundamental to those who work within the trade, and many managers in other hospitality related positions, it was felt that more input was needed to placed upon the social, moral and ethical areas.”

After being piloted in Cardiff, it is hoped that the short course will go national. It covers basic licensing and associated laws and an introduction to alcohol, its effect upon the body, and potential for damage. It also covers social skills relating to working with alcohol, the physiological and psychological aspect such as understanding causes of aggression, body language plus strategies for defusing potentially dangerous situations.

For an enormous number of the people who work in pubs and clubs etc, their customers are young people, often students. Many, for a multiple of reasons, become involved in alcohol-related violence, whether directly or indirectly. The Home Office has set up the Targeting Alcohol-related Street Crime project to try to look at ways of reducing alcohol-related crime. The ServeWise Cardiff initiative fits into this project as part of the continuing search for ways to reduce violence. ServeWise was originally developed in Scotland by Alcohol Focus Scotland, and is currently being piloted in Cardiff as ServeWise Cardiff.

Helping full time students to understand the full dynamics of the ‘wet’ side of the hospitality industry should enable them to have more self-confidence and ultimately be able to provide a professional environment for their customers. On the lecturer side there is a small team of staff whose research interests lie within the food and drink area. The team has become aware over time of the dearth of reliable statistical information specifically relating to alcohol and impact upon the hospitality industry as a whole. It is anticipated that the current work with the Cardiff Police Force, and future work with Alcohol Focus Scotland, amongst other sources, will enable us to investigate and publish pedagogic research. This research will in turn enhance the student learning experience at UWIC.



Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem. A.A. currently estimates a presence in more than 150 countries. Two upcoming conventions:

39th Australian National AA Convention – 8th to 12th April 2004, Townsville, Tropical North Queensland. The Conference Venue is Jupiters Hotel and Casino. Further info: http://www.aa.org.au/whatson/index.php?nav=mb

The 70th anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous will be celebrated at the 2005 International Convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, June 30ûJuly 3, 2005. Further information: http://www.aa.org/default/en_services_aa.cfm?pageid=39


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