Sunday, Aug. 10, 2003

Benidorm, Spain: 2003

When Pedro Zaragoza was appointed mayor of the tiny fishing village of Benidorm in 1950, Spain was impoverished, underdeveloped and still traumatized by the civil war. Zaragoza made the most of his town’s assets — two sandy beaches and lots of sun — by turning it into a high-rise vacation haven for Europe’s burgeoning middle classes. "I realized if we built up instead of out, more people could have balconies, fresh air and sea or mountain views," he says. Many more people: claiming one of the highest hotel-bed capacities in Europe, Benidorm hosts over 5 million visitors per year. Benidorm no longer resembles the picturesque village it once was and large swaths of the Spanish coast have become concrete jungles of condominiums. But Zaragoza is unrepentant: "I'm proud of what we did for Benidorm."