A pioneer of Benidorm’s popularity among British holidaymakers seeking sun, sand and cheap booze has called time on the “unprofitable and undesirable” sector.

José María Caballé, who owns 18 properties in Benidorm and is the destination’s biggest hotelier, told The Times that hotels can no longer work with “such low prices”.

He called on Benidorm and other parts of Spain to emulate France and Italy by moving more upmarket and counter a growing “turismfobia” among locals.

Complaining Benidorm has too many hotel beds that are sold at rock-bottom prices to tour operators that go bust by trying to compete with low- cost airlines, Caballé said: “The pandemic has been like a decisive punch to a boxer already on the ropes.

“The popular market will never return to the same level and when the market returns there will be demand for more quality.”

Caballé said that when tourism was growing in places like Benidorm in the 1970s and 80s, the standard of living in Spain was low and people were prepared to “put up with noise and drunkenness”.

He added: “We can’t cater for low-level clientele to get drunk for three days. This doesn’t happen in a modern country.”

Caballé, who is aged 79, came to Benidorm in the late 1960s and became a pioneer of mass tourism in the country working with package holiday firm Clarksons.

Prior to Benidorm’s tourism “gold rush” and transformation into a mass- market destination it was a local fishing village and had just three small hotels in the 1950s on its three-mile beach.

“People came to enjoy Benidorm, its night barbecues, excursions, parties discos. We had services of great quality,” said Caballé.

“In a way we should return to that spirit, to promote the whole area, with its potential for sports, visits to nearby mountain villages, for food, win and culture.

“We have to offer more than sun, beaches and cheap alcohol.”