Sarah Slattery of Skytours is our September winner in ITTN’s Budding Travel Writers competition and therefore has a 4:1 chance of winning €1,000 – and YOU could too if you work in a travel agency or tour operator in Ireland (North or South)!
If you have participated in a fam trip, or taken a trip won as a prize at a travel trade event in Ireland, over the past 21 months (i.e. since 1st January 2012) then simply send 500 words and one or two photos from your trip, along with your name, job title and company, to [email protected] . (See below for the full Competition Rules.)
Sarah’s entry was selected by the four judges – Ronan Flood and Neil Steedman of Irish Travel Trade News and Cathy Burke and Bernie Whelan of Travel Counsellors Ireland. Our August winner was Shane Cullen, Killiney Travel, (see ittn.ie/2013/09/12/) and our July winner was Bernie Roche, HRG Worldwide / Club Travel (see ittn.ie/bulletins/bernie-wins-e100-july-prize-now-in-running-for-e1000-top-prize/).
All three have each won a €100 One4all gift voucher and an invitation to the 22nd Irish Travel Trade Awards gala event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dublin (previously the Burlington Hotel), on Wednesday 11th December 2013 – when one of our five monthly winners (from July to November) will be presented with the 2013 Budding Travel Writer of the Year Award and a cash prize of €1,000, sponsored by Travel Counsellors Ireland.
Sarah’s entry was her report on the fam trip to Benidorm, Costa Blanca, Spain, held in September 2013 by Lowcostbeds and the Spanish Tourism Office:
Benidorm: Bold or Beautiful?
Despite over 20 years selling European holidays, I found myself in the awkward position whereby my client knew more about Benidorm than I did. For years I could not understand the appeal. Why was this high-rise, mainly British, resort the most ‘Googled’ holiday destination from Ireland last year? I was aware that Benidorm has good nightlife and, of course, it is renowned for its low cost of living – but don’t most Spanish resorts have this?
When the invitation landed on my desk from Lowcostbeds and the Spanish Tourism Office to join a fam trip to this destination that had perplexed me so much for so long, I gratefully accepted.
The ‘Benidorm 8’ (myself and seven other invitees) got acquainted in the Gold Circle Lounge at Dublin Airport courtesy of Aer Lingus – a nice start to the trip, I must say! After a short flight of just over two hours, we arrived in the Costa Blanca at Alicante Airport and after a 40-minute drive we arrived at our destination: Benidorm.
Most of our first day was spent frequenting hotels and getting a feel for the place and I must admit that my first impressions were not that great. Apartment blocks and hotels seemed to stretch high into the blue skies, and there were numerous raucous bars, so I found myself wondering: Why is this place so popular with Irish people?
It was not until that evening that it suddenly all seemed to click – it’s the nightlife! Until now the only thing I had heard about the nightlife in Benidorm was that it was loud and had plenty of English pubs. Of course, I had also heard of a certain female entertainer, Vikki, whose shows were quite sticky, but the less said about her, the better!
I have visited most Spanish resorts and I have experienced nightlife on many levels, but Benidorm has so much more! There are bars. There are disco bars. There is plenty of karaoke. But it is the shows that differentiate it from anywhere else I have been. People, young and old, thronged to see amazing tribute bands – Take That, Westlife, Queen, U2, unique comedy acts – and they were all fantastic. In fact we found ourselves wondering again and again why these entertainers were not entering, and winning, TV shows such as ‘The X Factor’.
When it comes to nightlife, Benidorm is the King (and Queen). There is nowhere better: it has it all. It was like being in the West End, albeit with everyone walking around in shorts and teeshirts, and all the shows are free! To add to the entertainment, six bottles of beer cost only €5 or you could spend just €1 on a pint – how could you beat that!
With my newly found respect for Benidorm, I saw the destination in a whole new light the next day. Apparently in the 1950s the Mayor of Benidorm had the foresight to know that, with its microclimate, Benidorm was going to be one of Spain’s largest holiday resorts and decided that he wanted hoteliers to build upwards so everyone could get a beautiful sea view. I was pleasantly surprised, when visiting and viewing most hotels, that most rooms had sea views and that hotels in Benidorm are designed and built with this in mind. Yes, the hotels are mostly high-rise but, because of this, everything is in very close proximity to your accommodation and Benidorm can cope adequately with 500,000 tourists at any time.
The resort has five stunning beaches, stretching over 6.5km (4 miles). You can choose Levante Beach, which is close to the English centre and tends to be extremely busy, or alternatively the quieter Poniente Beach, which has a newly built promenade, ideal for an evening stroll. In between them is the old town of Benidorm, which is packed with shops, tapas bars and absolutely oozes old-world character and charm. It was here that we enjoyed a fabulous lunch with sea views in the heart of the old town – it was magical!
Not only did I have a newly found respect for Benidorm as a destination, but I also now realise that it has so much more to offer than nightlife and beaches. What other resort can offer five theme parks within a 10-minute taxi ride from the centre? There is Aqualandia, the largest aqua park in Spain with the tallest slide in the world! There is also Mundomar, a park with dolphin and seal shows and, of course, Terra Mitica. If rollercoasters are your thing then you can’t afford to miss this park!
Let’s not forget all the possibilities for day trips too. There is the stunning Villajoyosa with its colourful buildings and the city of Alicante, which really surprised me. The castle of Santa Barbara is well worth a visit, with a palm tree-lined promenade and affluent marina, Alicante makes for a perfect day trip or even a city break.
I now finally understand the whole Benidorm phenomenon and why, five years on, the TV series based on the resort is still such a huge success. Benidorm has sun most of the year, stunning beaches, a variety of hotels, fantastic nightlife and an old town full of character. The place has something for everyone and, like Las Vegas, it is a destination that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.
BUDDING TRAVEL WRITER COMPETITION
1. Each entrant must have participated, or be due to participate, in a familiarisation trip ex-Ireland (North or South) between 1st January 2012 and 29th November 2013. For the purposes of this competition, ‘a fam trip’ includes any trip won as a prize at a travel trade event in Ireland. Confirmation of the entrant’s fam trip participation or prize win may be sought from the relevant supplier.
2. They must currently be employed by a tour operator or travel agency in Ireland, but not necessarily the same company that they were employed by at the time of the fam trip. Travel Counsellors are not eligible to enter the competition.
3. More than one entry may be submitted if an entrant has participated in more than one fam trip during the above period.
4. Each entry must comprise up to a maximum of 500 words of text and captioned photos (minimum one, maximum four).
5. The competition opens at 9.00am on Monday 8th July 2013 and closes at midnight on Friday 29th November 2013. Only individual travel employees are eligible to enter.
6. Entries must be submitted by email, with the author’s name, job title and company, to [email protected]. All entries are deemed to be the property of Irish Travel Trade News and as such can be featured in any of ITTN’s online or offline publications without recompense to the writer.
7. All entries will be adjudicated by an independent panel of judges representing Irish Travel Trade News and Travel Counsellors and one monthly winner will be selected for July, August, September, October and November 2013 from the entries received. All entries submitted from 8th July up to the end of each month will be eligible.
8. Each monthly winner will be notified by the 5th of the following month. They will receive a prize of a €100 One4all gift voucher and will be invited as a guest to the 22nd Irish Travel Trade Awards to be held at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, on Wednesday 11th December 2013.
9. One of the five monthly winners will be selected as the overall winner and will be presented at the above event with the 2013 Budding Travel Writer of the Year Award and a cash prize of €1,000.
10. No correspondence will be entered into in relation to any entry submitted and the judges’ decisions will be final.
11. The copyright of all entries submitted will be owned by Belgrave Group Ltd, the publisher of Irish Travel Trade News.
12. The 2013 Budding Travel Writer of the Year competition is sponsored by Travel Counsellors Ireland Ltd.