The Story of Benidorm: 3000 BC – Now!

Panoramic photo of Benidorm

Panoramic photo of Benidorm, Costa Blanca Image credit

At its peak in 1977 Benidorm welcomed 12 million visitors a year and, although that number has never been topped since, it remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.

Jet skiing in Benidorm

Jet skiing is a popular pastime in Benidorm Image credit

Alicante Airport received 10 million visitors to the area in 2011, and Benidorm would have received the lion’s share of those holidaymakers. Raking in a significant proportion of Spain’s annual gross national product, Benidorm exemplifies the transformative power of tourism, having grown from a sleepy coastal village in the 1950s to one of Europe’s top holiday destinations by the 1970s. Here we take a potted look at the resort’s history…

Pre-20th Century

Yellowfin fish in Benidorm

Yellowfin fish Image credit

Benidorm received its town charter way back in 1325, but even before then the area is thought to have homed local fishermen and various settlements dating back as far as 3000B.C. Pirate attacks hampered the town’s progress during the 15th century, but the subsequent strengthening of its defences and the creation of a new irrigation system in 1666 he town gave Benidorm a major boost towards establishing itself in the region. By the 1700s the growing agricultural industry combined with the town’s expert tuna fishermen gave it a burgeoning economy.

Early 20th Century

Levante Beach in Benidorm in the 1950s

Levante Beach in Benidorm (1950s) Image credit

Benidorm’s fishing industry continued to flourish until the 1950s, when its decline forced the town council to look to alternative means to generate wealth in Benidorm. Proposals for tourism developments were then approved by the authorities and Benidorm took its first steps toward being the holiday Mecca it is today.


Levante, Benidorm circa 1960

Levante, Benidorm circa 1960 Image credit

The 1960s saw the construction of a large number of high-rise developments along the Benidorm coastline, all necessary to house the increasing numbers of visitors to the resort. With the opening of Alicante airport just south of Benidorm in 1967, further construction was required to house the fresh wave of visitors from Holland, Germany and later the UK.


Benidorm sunset

Sun setting in Benidorm Image credit

Construction continued into the 1970s as the resort enjoyed its boom period, peaking at 12 million visitors in 1977. Basic hotel conditions and horror stories of food poisoning did nothing to put off the swarms of visitors in search of sun, Sangria and sand, and Benidorm established itself as the model resort for the package holiday industry.


Cocktail drinks

The 1980s brought a new generation of tourism to Benidorm Image credit

The 1980s saw Benidorm suffer by association with a young generation of binge-drinking Brits who were heading to the resort in their thousands in the summer months for a cheap raucous holiday. Some families began considering other low-cost resorts around the Mediterranean, and although still a hit with many, Benidorm gained a reputation which was to take many years to shake off.


Benidorm in the summer

More recently, Benidorm has become a popular summer destination Image credit

Benidorm remained hugely popular into the 1990s, combining beachside hotel rooms, a multitude of entertainment venues and nightspots to choose from and cheap, familiar food and drink to overseas visitors. Package holidays to the resort continued to sell well, and families and elderly people began to return to the town for holidays.

2000 – Present

Sun setting behind Benidorm buildings

The sun’s not setting on Benidorm as a holiday destination just yet

Benidorm is now firmly established as a family resort. Although visitor number have dropped slightly in recent years, the population of the town swells from just over 70,000 to around 1.5 million each summer. The ITV comedy show Benidorm, running since 2007, has revived interest in the resort, and generated interest among a new generation of UK holidaymakers. Benidorm has also become extremely popular as a winter destination for elderly travellers from Northern Europe, with the town’s micro-climate providing mild weather year-round.


Note: This article was originally published on our Benidorm holidays page, but has been moved here for relevancy purposes.

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