According to Spanish authorities, they have “never seen anything like it”.
A thousand Portuguese students on an organised school trip to celebrate the looming end of their 12th year studies apparently went on a destructive rampage through a Torremolinos hotel, leaving a trail of damages stretching well into the many thousands of euros.
Newspaper reports say the hotel will be giving a press conference tomorrow.
But ‘people’s tabloid’ Correio da Manhã and news website Sapo24 give ‘another side to the story’ – carrying interviews with students allegedly involved saying the episode has been twisted, and that the real issues lie with the hotel being sub-standard, with cockroaches in the bedrooms and an “authentic monster” of a hotel manager.
First, to the official version: Diário de Notícias and various other papers report that Spanish police claim 1,000 students were expelled from the Hotel Pueblo Camino Real after “causing thousands of euros worth of damages”.
“They destroyed tiles, threw mattresses out of windows, set off fire extinguishers in the hotel corridors and dropped a television into a bath-tub”.
According to the paper, the first batch of 500 youngsters was forcibly expelled from the hotel on Friday, with the rest being escorted from the premises on Saturday.
Bizarrely, the group is understood to have been ‘accompanied’ on the trip by PSP agents, whose national commissioner Claúdia Andrade told DN on Saturday: “The bad behaviour associated with the excessive consumption of alcohol and incivilities in the hotel units in which they were lodged must have overstepped the limits”.
DN adds that Spanish police have opened an inquiry, and criminal prosecutions may well follow for those over the age of 18.
Reactions here have ranged from open-mouthed disillusion to disbelief.
President of Confap (the national confederation of parents associations) Jorge Ascenção said: “But the trip only started a day or two ago!
“Parents have to rethink these trips and whether their children should take them before actually completing the 12th year”, he added, saying the incident also posed the question: “What kind of citizens are we creating?”
DN adds that this is not an isolated incident. “In 2006 an episode of the same gravity took place at a hotel in Palma de Maiorca” and that
“throughout several decades, upsets caused by drunken Portuguese students in Spanish hotels have been known” – though never to the point that the students had to be forcibly expelled.
According to Ascenção, responsibility does not lie with any of the teachers accompanying the young people.
“The trip is purely the responsibility of the families and the students”, he told DN, stressing: “We have to rethink destinations, because it is always in southern Spain that these upsets occur”.
CM however appears to have interviewed various individuals involved, including the trip’s organiser Nuno Dias of the Slide In travel agency that organised it.
Dias told the paper: “There was no expulsion. The youngsters checked-out and spent the day at a theme park”.
As to the damages, and the ‘rampage’, Braga student Miguel Candeias explained: “We paid (€450) for full-board, and we didn’t get it. The food, hygiene and changes of towels left much to be desired.
“They accused Portuguese of having destroyed the first floor of the hotel, but I went to see for myself and I didn’t see anything destroyed”.
Another youngster, Frederico Pereira, told the paper: “I was taking a shower and a security guard walked in, even with the door shut. He made everyone get out of the rooms early”.
CM adds that the Pueblo Camino Real has 294 rooms “distributed over four floors” (The hotel’s website puts the number at 144 rooms – 132 doubles, four junior suites and 12 ‘individuals’). CM says it tried to establish how 1000 students could be housed in such a space “but has not received a reply”.
Students also told the paper how they had written in the hotel’s complaints book, but that the pages were later “torn out by reception staff and thrown away”.
Other reports suggested there was “chaos at mealtimes”.
The students told CM “the food served was poor quality, largely fried with no alternatives”.
When students wanted a second helping, or a second drink “it took two hours standing in a queue” to get one.
Sapo24 spoke to students on the trip from Lisbon who described dirty rooms with “cockroaches and ants” and soiled towels and bedlinen.
Far from being under the effects of alcohol, students told Sapo24 that they were denied access to it and subjected to what they termed “racist” verbal abuse.
Back home now from the ‘nightmare’, the students face a new term in which final exams to see whether they really have concluded the 12th year will only come in June.