Benidorm, Topography of Mass Tourism
Planned under Franco, who sought to develop tourism on the coasts, the city of Benidorm, which was then only a fishing port, was entirely redesigned for leisure and vacations and became in just a few decades the first destination of mass tourism in Spain. Located on the Costa Blanca, northeast of Alicante, Benidorm enjoys a sunny climate all year round; a major advantage that attracts a predominantly North European clientele.
Benidorm is a planned city conceived on a highly dense vertical model. Organized by activity zones – entertainment, shopping, food, beach – it favors proximity and the organization of services. Mostly composed of massive concrete towers – the tallest of which is 192 meters high – the city holds the world record for the number of skyscrapers per inhabitant. A verticality that is supposed to protect the ecosystem around the city.
Relying solely on recreation, Benidorm has bulldozed a unique landscape of concrete, bright signs and palm trees. Even its flora has been designed and organized to make it “saleable”: fake grass, palm trees ( surrounded by asphalt), rows of hedges; the illusion is perfect. One does not come to Benidorm for its cultural heritage or to explore the treasures of the Costa Blanca. One comes to lie by the pool, in the shadow of concrete giants – which are themselves adjacent to a crowded beach.
In the kingdom of the “all inclusive”, everything is cheap and you can find anything, except what is local. “Pubs” and “English goods” signs follow one another in the wide avenues of the city, just like the theme restaurants. The entertainment is king, the disorientation is nonexistent.
These “saloons”, water parks, golf courses and casinos will surely remind to anyone who keeps an eye open some city in Nevada. Tourism is standardized, the same entertainment and fast-food chains can be found here as elsewhere. It’s Las Vegas by the sea and Manhattan for the skyline. Many actually call it “Beniyork”.
Unlike the journey that inspires openness, an awakening to oneself and to others, Benidorm offers you “tourism” in all its standardized excess.