Benidorm is popular with tourists from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Benidorm's initial growth in popularity can be attributed to the package holiday explosion, and continues year round, due to the night-life based around the central concentration of bars and clubs. The large number of free cabaret acts that start around 21:00 and continue into the early hours set Benidorm apart from other similar cities.
The author and Guardian journalist Giles Tremlett identified the city as the birthplace of package tourism in the book Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country's Hidden Past and remarked that culturally the city contradicted conservative notions of National Catholicism that General Franco had espoused. The accessibility of Benidorm to a wider social strata made the town into an ever so easy target for highbrow sarcasm, as by Jani Allan in the Sunday Times in 1990: "These days you just have to look at the numbers of wide-bodied jets bearing wide-bodied holidaymakers to Benidorm to realise that package holidays and airborne cattle trucks make fun in the sun accessible to everyone."
In the 1980s Benidorm developed a reputation for British drunken lager louts and violent binge drinking. This did not happen all year round but mainly in the summer months of July and August. During the 1980s families were put off visiting the city. However today the problem of drunkenness and lager louts has largely gone and Benidorm has become more mellowed. Many such people tend to visit other places like Ibiza or Magaluf. Now there is a very good police presence in the town which has greatly improved safety and provided for a good atmosphere. Nightlife is very popular and mainly involves cabaret acts and tapas bars.
The town is now very popular with families. Also, more and more elderly people from Northern Europe decide to stay there during the winter. This made 'Benidorm' into something of a synonym for elderly people in those countries, as can be seen in the Flemish candid camera programme Benidorm Bastards.
Benidorm has three major beaches: Playa de Levante (Valencian Platja de Llevant), Playa de Poniente (Valencian Platja de Ponent) and Playa de Mal Pas (Valencian Platja del Mal Pas); all of them have had a blue flag since 1987, the maximum quality standard recognised by the European Union. The Gran Hotel Bali, a four-star hotel located in this city since 2002, is a 186-metre-tall building which stood as the tallest skyscraper in Spain for five years, until it was surpassed by the CTBA towers in Madrid and Intempo, also in Benidorm. However, it still is the tallest hotel in Europe.