1. Tourism in Benidorm


There are opportunities in both GCSE and A-level Geography for case studies of tourist destinations. Benidorm is a popular choice with students and geography teachers have also sometimes produced case studies on the resort to help their students. These are usually presented chronologically to illustrate the Butler model of resort development, but very little mention is ever made of Benidorm’s resort history before the 1950s, and quite a lot of the information is either wrong or presents a very simplistic view of the resort’s development.

Our school has the advantage of being situated just 4 kilometres from Benidorm, so students should be better placed to write a case study in a more authentic way. However, experience has shown that they – like everyone else – simply look at case study material about Benidorm on the internet and repeat some of the nonsense they find there.  For example, “Benidorm was a small fishing village which suddenly became a tourist resort in the 1960s“…   No it wasn’t and no it didn’t!!!

As a teacher, I decided it was time to produce a case study of Benidorm that would be a more reliable source for my students.  It will also be a free resource for others to use. Hopefully it will do justice to Benidorm, which has a far richer history as a tourist resort than many people are aware.  This case study will not be a finished essay but a work in progress, continually updated when new information can be added or corrections made.

The Development of Benidorm
as a Tourist Resort 1865-2015

1. 1865-1925 Exploration

2. 1926-1955 Involvement

3. 1956-1962 Development

4. 1963-1977 Consolidation

5. 1978-1989 Stagnation

6. 1990-2015 Rejuvenation

Apart from the case study pages linked above, there are a number of other links provided her to places other than this website.

There is also an archive of photographs of Benidorm recording the stages of its development as a resort. This photo collection is a work in progress and new photographs are being added to it.

A general introduction to tourism for GCSE can be found in this presentation: Resort Development

A good general introduction to the significant stages of development of Benidorm is provided in these lecture notes from Ana Espinosa Seguí of the University of Alicante: “The evolution of tourism in Spain. The case study of Benidorm” This is a 46-page pdf file organised as presentation notes for a lecture, with valuable graphs, well organised tgables of figures for tourism and up-do-date analysis. (The tourism figures in the notes are from 2012.) http://rua.ua.es/dspace/bitstream/10045/27662/6/benidorm_evolution.pdf

Some further Benidorm history and old photographs can be found here: http://www.realbenidorm.net/guide-benidormhistory2.html

Benidorm history pages on http://www.guia-de-benidorm.com/es/Informacion/historia.htm

Andrew Petcher, an English journalist has some very well researched information about the development of Benidorm on his blog pages, particularly early recollections from the 1960s. B is for Benidorm, Benidorm c1960, Benidorm, Plan General de Ordinacion, Benidorm, The War of the Bikini, Benidorm 1977 – First impressions and the Hotel Don Juan, Benidorm 1977- Beaches, the Old Town and Peacock Island

Perceptions of Benidorm in the 1970s: another article by Andrew Petcher, “Benidorm – the Surprise

PEDRO ZARAGOZA Mayor of Benidorm 1950s/1960s

Any study of the growth of Benidorm as a settlement and a tourist destination needs to take account of the forward-looking town planning of the 1950s and particularly the charismatic Mayor of Benidorm Pedro Zaragoza Orts who brought in the Plan General de Ordenación (the development plan for the town proposed in 1954). A good concise article is his obituary in The Independentwhen he died in 2008 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/pedro-zaragoza-developer-of-highrise-benidorm-804022.html

Here is another story on Zaragoza from the BBC Madrid correspondent in 2002: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/2031726.stm

Another good summary of the role of Zaragoza is presented here: http://www.thisisvalencia.com/benidorm-predrot.html

Andrew Petcher (mentioned above) has some articles in Spanish too. Here is his article on Pedro Zaragoza.

Un Beso en el Puerto: images of Benidorm in 1965

The 9-minute opening sequence to the film, with the popular singer Manolo Escobar, shows Benidorm as a fashionable resort. Note how people are dressed. This sequence also shows the Poniente beach with half-built tower blocks rising up, beginning to change the sky line.

An excellent study of the urban planning of Benidorm (contrasting the high rise model with the urban sprawl of Torrevieja) is provided by Mª Nieves Higueras López in a postgraduate study at the University of Alicante in 2012: http://www.enclaveproyectos.es/descargas/Benidorm_estudio_de_su_modelo_urbanistico.pdf

The infamous Sun article of 2012 claimed that Benidorm was in terminal decline. A number of inaccuracies and deliberate distortions can be found in the article, particularly the captions on photographs. Links

The image of Benidorm presented by the Benidorm Tourist authorities in 2009 when they visited the annual ABTA convention in Barcelona. This video was distributed to delegates at the convention.

In contrast to the Benidorm tourism promoters, the image of the town presented in the comedy television series “Benidorm” is geared to the English perception of the type of people who holiday in the resort. A Wikipedia article on “Benidorm” explains the TV programme if you have not seen it, or look at this clip from Series 1

Benidorm filming series 6 began in March 2013. Some pupils from our school went to see a scene being shot in an indoor location in Benidorm.

Benidorm filming series 6 began in March 2013. Some pupils from our school went to see a scene being shot in an indoor location in Benidorm.

Schoolweb GeoActive Online resource presenting a complete picture of the growth of Benidorm following the Butler model. Four pages, with student activities Mass Tourism – Trends and Issues in Spain.


The problems of the 1990s in Benidorm included water shortages (Benidorm has 30,000 pools, each tourist uses 880 litres of water a day). The following link contains information about water use and management in Benidorm, as this became a problem, with water shortages being a severe obstacle to development.

Benidorm from the sky. Video celebrating the high rise buildings of Benidorm


Since the growth of Benidorm during the 1960s coincided with the decline of Blackpool, and involved the same customer base, the first links here are to studies of Blackpool’s decline. There is an exact relationship between the decline of Blackpool on the Butler model and the rise of Benidorm.

Link to video about Blackpool, the resort for the industrial working class in the north of England, before the popularity of package tours to the Mediterranean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiG4uDr998c

Before cheap flights and package holidays, Blackpool was a popular resort destination for the industrial working class of northern England. The period of its decline on the Butler model coincides exactly with the period of Benidorm’s development.

Vickers Vanguard at Machester circa 1961
British European Airways Vickers Vanguard at Manchester circa 1961. This type of aircraft flew thousands of tourists to Spain in the early days of package holidays.
The package holiday: Skytours Holidays advert 1965
A package holiday for 28 guineas (a guinea = one pound & one shilling). Skytours Holidays advert 1965
Benidorm circa 1958 in the early stages of development
Benidorm circa 1958 in the early stages of development

Specific A2 level Geography notes.
The development of international tourism, pages 419-430. Topic summary of this part of the unit:

● Over the past 50 years tourism has developed into a major
global industry, which is still expanding rapidly.
● A range of factors has been responsible for the growth of
global tourism. These can be subdivided into economic, social and political.
● By far the greatest developments have occurred since the end of the Second World War, arising from the substantial growth in leisure time, affluence and mobility enjoyed in developed countries.
● Many developing countries have become more open to foreign direct investment in tourism compared to two or three decades ago.
● Unfortunately, more than many other industries, tourism is
vulnerable to ‘external shocks’. Periods of economic recession
characterised by high unemployment, modest wage rises, and high interest rates, affect the demand for tourism in most parts of the world.
● Many communities in the developing world have suffered considerable adverse cultural changes, some of them through the imposition of the worst of western values.
● The attitudes to tourism of host countries and destination communities in particular can change over time.
● Communities that were once very close socially and economically may be weakened considerably due to a major outside influence such as tourism.
● Tourism undoubtedly brings valuable foreign currency to developing countries and a range of other obvious benefits but critics argue that its value is often overrated because of economic leakages.
● Butler’s model of the evolution of tourist areas attempts to illustrate how tourism develops and changes over time.
● Tourism benefits other sectors of the economy, providing jobs and income through the supply chain. This is called the multiplier effect because jobs and money multiply as a result of tourism development.
● Tourism that does not destroy what it sets out to explore has come to be known as ‘sustainable’.
● Education about the environment visited is clearly the key.
● The environmental impact of tourism is not always negative.
Landscaping and sensitive improvements to the built
environment have significantly improved the overall quality
of some areas.
● In the past 20 years more specialised types of tourism have become increasingly popular. An important factor seems to be a general re-assessment of the work–life balance.
● Virtually every aspect of the industry now recognises that tourism must become more sustainable. Ecotourism is at the leading edge of sustainable tourism.

Benidorm case study applied to A2 Advanced Human Geography exam:
Unit 3.3 of Global Interdependence requires in-depth tourism case studies of MEDC and LEDC destinations, and also specialist or ‘niche’ tourism (e.g. eco-tourism, religious or cultural tourism, etc.) There is some value in presenting Benidorm as a mass-tourism case study for A2 exam longer responses.  Here is a plan and model answer using the Benidorm case study for the Winter 2013 Paper 3 question 6b:

Assess the impacts of tourism on the environment, society and economy of one tourist area or resort you have studied. [15 mark question]

Model answer plan Benidorm model answer plan

Model answer Benidorm model answer

Model answer annotated in colour to show how the command word “assess” requires assessment to be built into the answer in relation to the other specific key words “environment, society and economy”. Benidorm model answer annotated

Economics of Tourism:

A useful report to consider when preparing A-level case study material on Benidorm. The role of tourism in a country’s or a region’s economic development is a very popular topic for discussion. You may be asked to assess tourism as a sound base for economic development.

Harvard University  Economics of Tourism Report.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s