ABTA chairman John McEwan has been presented with an award from the Benidorm and Costa Blanca Hotel Association (HOSBEC).

The award was presented at a ceremony in the auditorium of Benidorm’s Town Hall in front of more than 200 guests, including local and regional authorities and businesses.

The special Gold Award was given to McEwan to recognise the support of the British travel trade. The UK remains the most important foreign market for the destination.

HOSBEC president Antonio Mayor thanked the British market for maintaining its “strategic alliance” with Benidorm and the Costa Blanca, particularly “in the present circumstances, when both the British and Spanish economies are enduring, perhaps at a different pace, the worst of the world economic crisis”.

He added: “For the British market, Benidorm and the Costa Blanca have always represented the Mediterranean identity and, in recent times, a more modern and fashionable image but still at an affordable price.” 

Mayor highlighted developments including the new Cultural Centre and the planned high speed train connections, as well as improvements at Alicante airport.

And he was optimistic about the recovery of the British market this year, following a 20% drop in sales in 2009.  “Early bookings are already better than expected and we are confident that this will continue in the next few months,” he added.

Accepting the accolade, McEwan said: “Benidorm set the template for good quality, good value tourism and it has grown from a small fishing village to its current status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“But attracting new customers as well as retaining old ones is a challenge that we both face. Benidorm and other Spanish resorts have recognised the need to adapt and modernise and this has helped you retain your number one position. 2009 was a very tough year, but the signs for 2010 are more positive.”