Mar 10 2009
According to the article above, Great Britain exports more trouble to the rest of Europe than any other nation.
A recent report published by the British Foreign Office, “British Behavior Abroad,” noted that in a 12-month period in 2006 and 2007, 602 Britons were hospitalized and 28 raped in Greece, and that 1,591 died in Spain and 2,032 were arrested there.The report did not distinguish between medical cases and arrests associated with drunkenness and those that had nothing to do with it. But it did say that “many arrests are due to behavior caused by excessive drinking.”
The unruly behavior of Britons does not always end when the vacation is over, either:
Earlier this summer, flying home to Manchester from the Greek island of Kos, a pair of drunken women yelling “I need some fresh air” attacked the flight attendants with a vodka bottle and tried to wrestle the airplane’s emergency door open at 30,000 feet. The plane diverted hastily to Frankfurt, and the women were arrested.
How is this story related to economics, you may be wondering? Well, it’s really about a market failure. The over-consumption of alcohol by British tourists is creating spillover costs for the societies (and police forces) of the nations in which the tourists get themselves into trouble.
As governments often do when market failures exists, some British consulates have begun taking action to reduce the negative externatlities associated with their nationals’ drunkenness.
Worried about the increase in crimes and accidents afflicting drunken tourists, the British consulate in Athens has begun several campaigns, using posters, beach balls and coasters with snappy slogans, to encourage young visitors to drink responsibly.
“When things do go wrong, they go wrong in quite a big way,” said Alison Beckett, the director of consular services. “What we’re trying to do here is reduce some of these avoidable accidents where they have so much to drink that they fall off balconies and are either killed or need huge operations.”
Because British tourists only consider their own enjoyment (benefits) while on vacation, they consume alcohol at a level that fails to take into account the social costs of their behavior. In economic terms, the marginal private benefit of alcohol consumption exceeds the marginal social benefit, representing an overallocation of resources towards alcohol in tourist towns. Government action by British consulates is aimed at reducing demand (marginal private benefit) among tourists, shifting the MPB curve back towards the MSB curve, in the hope that alcohol consumption will decline to the socially optimal level, where marginal social benefit equals marginal social cost.
There seems to be a fine line between too much drinking and not enough in the tourist spots of Europe. As far as the impact that British drunkenness has on business, some in the tourist trade believe the very prospect of wild parties and cheap booze is what keep the local economies afloat. Crack down too much on the wild Britons, and business could collapse as customers attracted to the anarchy stop arriving.
- Is overconsumption of alcohol a market failure? If so, what type could it be classified as?
- If the tourist nations were serious about cracking down on drunk tourists, what economic actions could they take in the resort communities where most of the trouble occurs?
- How are proprietors of bars and clubs in resort communities benefiting at the expense taxpayers from other parts of the tourist nations? Does the private cost of running a bar in a place like Malia, Greece reflect the social cost? Explain.
About the author: Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author