The Development of Benidorm as a Tourist Resort 1865-2015
Stage 6: Rejuvenation
In the Butler TALC model the main factor determining whether a resort goes into the decline stage or rejuvenation stage is the willingness of the local tourism authority to initiate a process of renewal and repositioning of the resort in the commercial holiday market place. In the case of Benidorm, the original development and consolidation stages were based on the formula of “sun and sand” package holidays and, as we have seen, the 1956 and 1963 general urban plans had focused on maximising the number of visitors in close proximity to the beaches.
The highly successful tourism marketing by the town council had promoted Benidorm as a stereotypical image of Spain. This is well symbolised by the building of a bullring in 1962, when the town had no historic bullfighting tradition and indeed such a small original population that such a ‘typical’ sporting amphitheatre would have been entirely disproportionate. Bullfighting was introduced in the 1960s to provide package tourists with the expected image of ‘Spanishness’, but forty years later people wanted more than just postcard images of bullfights and flamenco dancing. The market had outgrown such a primitive lure and Spanish culture was no longer an exotic selling point.
The rejuvenation period began at the end of the 1990s and there were several strands. First the building of Terra Mitica, and then Terra Natura zoo and the two water parks, introduced an element of adventure into the resort. Now there was more to do in Benidorm than lie on the beach all day, and drink cheap beer while singing “Viva España” in a karaoke bar at night.
There was also investment in more upmarket facilities: golf courses and gastronomic restaurants designed to appeal to more affluent visitors. This might be seen as an echo of the once modestly fashionable Benidorm that attracted 19th century sea-bathing visitors from Alcoy and further afield. The upgrading of accommodation followed suit, with a building programme of more upmarket hotels like the Hotel Bali and spacious luxury apartments with spectacular sea and mountain views, culminating in the In Tempo towers, the tallest apartment building in Europe. Finally there was a new emphasis on the environment: mountaineering, walking, cycling and water sports, to attract young couples and appeal to the adventurous holidaymakers who would have been deterred by the earlier image of “sun and sand” holidays.
The repositioning of Benidorm in the market in these ways went along with a search for new markets. In the past decade the local tourist authority has been very successful in marketing Benidorm to eastern European holidaymakers and the new market in Russia is proving successful too (link to story regarding Russian tour company Labirint, suggesting Russian tourism represents 2.7 % of tourist arrivals in Spain).
Benidorm’s traditional market is still being developed in annual promotional campaigns in the UK and other northern European countries to increase the number of tourists. The Benidorm tourism board Fitur campaign reaches more than 70 million potential customers an currently costs around 200,000 euros. Increasing numbers of German tourists are now being attracted back to Benidorm after largely quitting the resort as a direct result of the water crisis in the 1970s.
More advances in rejuvenating the resort are due to new methods of selling holidays directly to the individual tourists – unlike the old package holidays – and there is an advantage in this. Foreign holiday companies are not taking an undue share of the profit (as with earlier package holidays) and the “leakage” from the Benidorm economy is therefore reduced.
Sustainable tourism is the watchword today and the positive environmental impacts of tourism can be seen in a number of other ways, such as the increased leisure facilities, parks and sports facilities such as golf courses, together with a re-kindling of interest in countryside and mountain preservation, conservation of landforms, wild flowers and animals.
Rejuvenation has been achieved with investment and many initiatives at local level, transport linkages (e.g. high speed rail connections) at national level, and international changes in the nature of the market. In all of these stages of the Butler TALC, Benidorm has closely followed the pattern of this model and presents a classic example of resort development in an MEDC.
The Benidorm tourism case study is a live and regularly updated project.
Coming soon: the definitive Butler model TALC graph for