MADRID – It’s no secret that British tourists have a fondness for Benidorm. A staggering 42.6% of the tourists in Benidorm hail from the UK, compared to 42.1% of national tourists. Furthermore, the city boasts 3,874 registered British residents, making up nearly 6% of the total population of 69,738.
Given these numbers, it’s perhaps not surprising that some Brits feel a sense of entitlement to this little slice of the Costa Blanca. Their expectations for a perfect holiday, however, sometimes clash with local customs, leading to tensions.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Back in 2015, a Facebook group was created by British tourists to report thefts and scams they experienced in the town. In 2018, a British tourist’s complaint went viral when she lamented that there were “too many Spaniards” in Benidorm. And this year, Forbes controversially claimed, based on reviews, that Benidorm was the European destination where tourists fell ill the most.
So, what’s the latest grievance? It appears that the British tourists are irked by the Spanish habit of rising early to claim a prime spot on the beach. They seem to believe that this is done deliberately to annoy them, because, of course, that’s the first thing on anyone’s mind during a vacation.
The “sunbed war” has shifted from the pool to the beach. The sight of tourists racing to secure the best spot by the pool is a summer staple in Benidorm and many other Spanish coastal hotels. However, this competition has now moved over to the beach, leading to a face-off between the locals and the British.
British tabloids, The Sun and the Mail Online have published photos showcasing Spanish tourists setting up their beach chairs and umbrellas at dawn. According to these tabloids, the Spaniards have two motives: to reserve their spot and then head back to bed, and to force the British tourists to rent the paid sunbeds.
This claim was also echoed on the YouTube channel, Benidorm Stuff, in a video that has garnered over 2,600 likes and 91,000 views. The video, available in English with Spanish subtitles, shows that while the front row might be occupied, there’s plenty of space further back on the beach.
Response Benidorm City Council
Benidorm’s City Council has responded to these allegations. Leaving personal items unattended on the beach or any public space is not allowed, and the local police have the authority to remove them or impose fines of up to €750. However, the council clarified that they rely on visitors’ common sense and have not imposed any fines this year.
The council further stated that the images published by the British tabloids are taken out of context and are based on unfounded assumptions. Their stance is clear: “Most of these people stay. They might set up their umbrella and then go for a walk, but they aren’t doing anything prohibited.”
Even the Daily Mail admits that these early risers are setting up while many British tourists are still partying or sleeping off the previous night’s revelries. So, what’s the expectation here? Should the Spanish locals wait for the British tourists to wake up and choose their preferred spot on the beach?
Perhaps it’s worth reminding these disgruntled tourists that Benidorm is a city, not a resort where everyone caters to their every whim. However, given their repeated visits, it seems only a minority hold this view.