Is Benidorm expelling LGBTQ+ tourism from its city?
Gay tourism in Benidorm dates back to 1962, when Pretex opened its doors, it was the very first bar with a completely gay atmosphere in the entire Alicante area. Since then, many more bars have appeared and disappeared in what is now the touristic capital of Costa Blanca.
Most of these bars have been located in the oldest part of Benidorm for decades. They are small but very cozy places situated in an original holiday location, the narrow, sometimes steep streets of an old fishing village. A place where tourists from the LGBTQ+ community from all over Europe loved to go.
|Picture by vecteezy.com|
Indeed, loved to go, because in recent years it seems that this form of tourism is no longer welcome in these city streets. What's more, in recent years the small bars have been seen more as a nuisance. That's a shame when you consider that that kind of tourism has made Benidorm what it is today.
The real problem is not the bars in the old town center, but the people who have moved there, they are annoyed by the nighttime noise that such a bar can cause. Something logical, entertaining, and fun involves a bit more noise. The question then is, why do you come to live there if you know that your downstairs neighbor is a gay night bar? You wouldn't live next to an airport and then complain that the planes make you blast out of your seat and keep you up at night.
However, it seems more like the city of Benidorm has chosen to sell its old city center to people who want to turn it into an exclusive neighborhood, something like the nearby Altea Hills, a status symbol for second homes and real estate offices with a lot of money. And with money comes peace and quiet and of course also the sometimes huge cars that have to be able to maneuver easily in the small streets of the old town. There is therefore no longer any room for authenticity, respect for history, and built-up traditions.
Agreed, there is also another reason why gay visits to these types of bars are declining, which is the normalization of homosexuality in general. You can go anywhere as gay, bisexual or lesbian these days. It has become the most normal thing in the world. But sometimes you want to be completely among your companions, especially on vacation and certainly in a place with many years of LGBTQ+ history.
But you can also speak of a form of discrimination in Benidorm. If you compare the old town of the city with the new town, where almost anything is possible: Large noisy bars with opening hours until the early hours, with everything that goes with it, extremely drunk tourists, quarrels, and disturbances that often make the international news and give Benidorm a bad reputation with tourists, it gives them a good reason not to visit the sunny holiday destination after all. However, this area also has large hotels and apartments that could use some holiday rest too. None of this seems to be a problem for the province of Valencia, as long as it brings in enough money and that that kind of tourism doesn't come to their capital. The discrimination between the LGBTQ+ community and that of the bars in the New Town lies in the fact that the larger moneymaking bars don't require special permits, such as for their annual Fancy Dress Party and Parade in November. This is certainly not the case for Gay Pride in September, even the smaller gay bars do not receive temporary privileges during their Gay Pride Week, and if there are privileges, they are made very unclear, every year again.
Hopefully, the city of Benidorm will realize in time that there are now exclusive neighborhoods all over the world for more wealthy tourists and hopefully they will not forget where it all started, just to go on holiday under the Spanish sun with friends or like-minded people and escape from their everyday life rut at home.