BALI and Fiji are becoming the destinations of choice for Australian “schoolies” – but the thousands taking their party offshore face potentially more serious hazards than the traditional Gold Coast or Byron Bay bashes.
Schoolies celebrations are expanding so rapidly outside Australia that worried parents are booking their own holidays to spy on their children, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Travel operators, aware of the risks posed by drugs, health issues and terrorism, are offering security guards to a tide of school-leavers about to descend on the Indonesian tourism hotspot.
Schoolies specialists Unleashed Travel said the arrest in Bali of a 14-year-old boy from Morisset Park, south of Newcastle, on drug charges had been “the best warning that Australian kids could get” before the partying started.
“As horrible as it was, the 14-year-old boy was good press and good timing (as a warning to others),” managing director Jot Lynas said. “The message for people is: ‘Don’t even think about doing anything with drugs in Bali’.”
Bookings for Bali during schoolies are already up by 30 to 50 per cent this year off a low base – and are expected to soar again.
Mr Lynas said the parents of many schoolies had been to Bali before and often wanted to return, and he had heard of some checking in to a resort “down the road” to keep an eye on their kids.
“Bali is not considered to be as safe as Fiji but parents are still willing to send their kids,” he said. Unleashed Travel has a security crew that is tasked with meeting the teenagers when they arrive.
The team escorts the teens to their resort, then stays with them – and, crucially, remains on call in case there are any emergencies.
One issue not expected to raise its head in Bali is the problem of “toolies” – men aged over 18 who hang around the school-leavers and who have been accused in the past of inciting trouble during schoolies week.
The increasing popularity of overseas destinations for school-leavers has dented the local market, with the number of schoolies heading to the Gold Coast now down by 25 per cent on previous years.
The Australian government’s Smart Traveller website, meanwhile, has issued a warning to schoolies intending to travel overseas about the severe penalties in place for possessing “soft drugs”.
The website has also issued a warning about the threat of terrorist attacks in Indonesia.
These focus in particular on areas around nightclubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, airports and places of worship.