The Development of Benidorm as a Tourist Resort 1865-2015
Stage 3: Development
In the early 1950s Benidorm hotels saw a small increase in visitors as the country gradually emerged from hardship.
A far-sighted decision was taken in 1956 by the town council, under its mayor Pedro Zaragoza Orts, to capitalise on Benidorm’s existing holiday trade and elevate this into the town’s main economy. Zaragoza envisaged a fully developed holiday resort and the Benidorm town council launched its first ambitious Plan General de Ordenación Urbana (PGOU). Since the 14th century when a settlement is first recorded in documents, the town had grown organically and there was also some military planning involving walls and defences – including the extensive re-modelling of the Castillo by the French occupiers in the Napoleonic period – but the 1956 civil development plan was the first real attempt to design the future growth of the town, as an urban project and with a deliberate economic focus.
The most noticeable feature of the 1956 plan is the Avenida del Mediterraneo, running parallel to the Levante beach, providing a spine on which all the other urban growth could develop and a wide open-spaced environment which was deliberately preserving recreational space between buildings. There was a lingering element of the enlightenment utopian planning movement in these ambitious plans: there was a conscious rationalism at work, in tandem with entrepreneurial self-interest, as the town’s business people looked ambitiously for new opportunities.
Two more hotels were built in Benidorm by the end of the 1950s and another important feature of the development phase was the 1959 Benidorm International Song Festival, which was a deliberate marketing strategy to put the resort on the tourist map. This festival would continue for forty years, but in 1959 it was the first time that the town had deliberately attracted international attention and the success of the festival was evident in the rapid rise of holidaymakers in the first years of the new “swinging sixties”.
The name “Costa Blanca” was a marketing and promotional name invented by British European Airways in 1957. When BEA launched their air service between London and Valencia it cost 38 pounds and16 shillings. The first regular holiday air routes to Spain had mainly centred on Costa Brava resorts, due to the limited range of propeller aircraft, but turbo-prop Vickers Viscounts and Vickers Vanguards of BEA (pictured) had a longer range and could fly direct to Valencia for holiday destinations like Benidorm. In the early 1960s jet aircraft began to fly holidaymakers from northern European airports directly to via Valencia and new air charter companies like British United Airways and Caledonian Airways were created to cater for the package holiday boom.
Just as the name Costa Blanca dates from this development stage, this also marked the introduction of package holidays with flight and accommodation all included in one price: “from 28 GNS inclusive – holidays abroad by air.”