Sunday, Aug. 10, 2003

Benidorm, Spain: 1962

Benidorm and Torremolinos were attractive fishing villages when the tourists began to arrive in the 1950s. They were ripe plums ready for picking, and many greedy speculators cashed in to meet the demand. The early development on many parts of the coast is a fine example of the best way to louse up a coastline.

Some resorts — Benidorm, Mallorca and Torremolinos, for example — have tried to clean up their acts. They have got rid of some of the 1960s atrocities, polished up their towns and planted trees and gardens. With luck, other places will follow their example. Spain should encourage quality tourism over quantity tourism. But you can't be too sweeping and put thousands of people out of work. Tourism has done so much for the Spanish economy and its people.

There was dreadful hunger in Spain before the 1950s, and tens of thousands of people have benefited from tourism. I rather approve of the cultural mix that comes with foreign invasions. Spaniards are still being influenced by their visitors. Even in the mountains of Andalucía I know of elderly Spanish ladies who eat brown bread and brown rice and go to yoga classes; they would never have done that before foreigners introduced them to such things.

Chris Stewart is a travel writer and sheep farmer