Spain's sun-soaked beaches, bars and boulevards are the destination of choice for millions of British travelers — but the government says more and more British citizens are spending time in Spanish jails and hospitals as well.
At least 17 million Britons leave behind the rain each year to vacation in Spain. According to a report released Wednesday by the Foreign Office, there has been a 33 percent increase of British citizens arrested in Spain: 2,032 in all between April 2006 and March 2007.
The report blamed many of the arrests abroad on bad behavior caused by excessive drinking.
The British Behavior Abroad Report also said more Britons were hospitalized in Spain than any other holiday destination, more Britons died there and more were reported raped there.
Spain is the most popular destination for British travelers and also has about 761,000 British citizens living there year-round.
Spanish newspapers regularly run stories about Britons arrested for unruly or drunken behavior, particularly in resort areas such as the Costa del Sol in the south or the Balearic islands.
And when big-name British soccer teams such as Liverpool or Manchester United go to Spain for a match with thousands of supporters in tow, Spanish police systematically beef up security to prevent hooliganism.
"Helping British nationals in distress overseas is one of our most important tasks, but many of the problems faced by holiday-makers are preventable," noted Foreign Office minister Meg Munn.
Spain also saw the highest number of hospitalizations, but proportionally, Thailand was the most dangerous destination for British tourists with 324 hospitalizations and 269 deaths during that period.
"Many of the hospitalizations in Thailand are a result of motorbike accidents, particularly in the southern islands," the report said.
Proportionally, Britons are most likely to be arrested in the United States, which saw 1,415 arrests out of 6.5 million British visitors and nearly 680,000 residents, or Cyprus, with 1.5 million visitors and 377 arrests.
Cyprus' Supreme Court recently sentenced two Britons to three years in prison for their role in a road crash that killed a local teenager and injured another.
Dubai is another trouble hotspot for Britons: The report said about 1.1 million Britons visit the United Arab Emirates each year — and another 55,000 live there — and there were 230 arrests, many for drug-related offenses, during the timeframe cited.
In July, a British man and woman were detained for allegedly having sex on one of Dubai's sprawling beaches.
Police in Greece have regular problems with young British tourists at popular island resorts such as Malia on Crete, Kavos on Corfu, Lagana on Zakynthos and Faliraki on Rhodes.
Most arrests are for drunk and disorderly behavior and public indecency. Last month, a 20-year-old British tourist was arrested in Malia and charged with infanticide after she gave birth alone in her hotel room to a boy who was later found dead.
The report said there were 3 million visits by Britons to Greece, resulting in 230 arrests, 602 hospitalizations, 131 deaths and 28 reported rapes.