Spain 2024: Nebulossa
Photo: RTVE

Spain's Benidorm Fest: Here to stay

The Eurovision 2024 national season is over, and to close this chapter we go back to Spain's selection which had fans and journalists from all over the world witness live what could easily be called a smaller scale Eurovision, the Benidorm Fest

Just last week we said goodbye to another busy Eurovision national season. Overall, 23 out of 37 countries opted to go for a national selection contest, in its various forms, in order to select their representatives for Eurovision 2024.

While Malta began their selection earlier, Czechia chose their artist first when Aiko won ESCZ 2024 with "Pedestal." Portugal closed the season with Iolanda's victory in Festival da Canção 2024.

The season got busier during January with Ireland and Luxembourg choosing their acts, and it all became quite intense during February when 15 other countries made their selection. Spain's Benidorm Fest 2024 made the transition between the two months and reaffirmed itself as one of the main selection competitions for Eurovision, as well as a brand on its own.

Former Eurovision and Benidorm Fest acts, fans, and journalists from all over the world didn't want to miss out on this smaller scale Eurovision and travelled to Benidorm to take it all in.

Benidorm Fest 2024

We talked with Spanish broadcaster's Head of Press for Eurovision, Maria Boj, about the events in Benidorm:

– The preparations for each Benidorm Fest start the day after the Eurovision Song Contest Final, says Maria Boj.

– Before the summer holidays, we prepare our work plan for next year's event, set the calendar and the stategy.

What a fan sees once they get to Benidorm a week before the Final is the result of roughly a year of hard work from both Spain's public broadcaster, RTVE, and Visit Benidorm, a team that certainly knows how to make an impact.

The preparations for each Benidorm Fest start the day after the Eurovision Song Contest FinalMaria Boj

It doesn't matter the location where your bus or taxi drops you off, when you look around you'll find at least one reference to the contest: perhaps a billboard, maybe an LED, a local speaking about it, or you'll even bump into one of Benidorm Fest acts while you try to find where you're staying.

The city is dressed up for the occasion and it all officially begins with the opening ceremony, a glamorous event where former Benidorm Fest acts, as well as the current year's contestants, the show's hosts, and so on pose for pictures, speak with the many journalists in town and, of course, enjoy themselves before things get serious.

It truly feels like Eurovision all over again:

– One of our goals is to consolidate the brand of the festival and position it as a benchmark, not only in Spain but in Europe. The fact that more foreign fans are coming to see it live and that international journalists are interested in covering it, represents a triumph for RTVE, Maria Boj explains.

The opening ceremony is just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the week, you'll continue to feel as if you're part of a Eurovision dream with multiple press conferences, live events related to the show, small concerts around the city featuring former Eurovision stars, former Benidorm Fest artists, and so on. You'll be wandering around finding somewhere to eat and you'll suddenly find yourself watching Blanca Paloma performing live.

Of course, the city of Benidorm also gets its share of benefits. It's hard to believe that when the event is held the city is living its low season. The streets are crowded, the nightlife is crazy, and the hotel occupancy rate reaches 84%:

– Year by year, we have more people coming to see what's happening around the Benidorm Fest, Leire Bilbao tells us, the director of Visit Benidorm.

As stated before, the Benidorm Fest is becoming a must-attend for many Eurofans. But the Palau Municipal d'Esports l'Illa de Benidorm, the arena where it's held, can only host around 1,500 fans per night, which at first doesn't seem to be enough:

– Because it's a TV show, we cannot afford to have all the people we want to have inside the arena, but luckily we have many parallel activities.

It does. When it's showtime, Benidorm's Plaza Triangular broadcasts the shows live. The square gets packed with locals, tourists and, of course, the big Eurovision fans who truly know how to catch people's attention with their love and screams of enthusiasm:

– The locals aren't bothered by the madness around the festival. They're proud to witness it and see the city as the current hot topic, concludes Leire.

All of this in three years

Given how well-structured and organized the Benidorm Fest already is it may be hard to believe that its first ever edition happened just in 2022, when Chanel's "SloMo" won and went on to give Spain its best result in Eurovision since 1995, a very strong start and hard to replicate:

– We started off from a good base that had to do with the know-how of RTVE where quality and rigor is the hallmark, shares Maria Boj.

– The Benidorm Fest has been improved each edition and everyone can tell. We have recognized our strengths and learned from the things that didn't go as well, and it's safe to say that the third edition has gone extremely well in general.

Last year, Blanca Paloma failed to impress the public and only gathered five points from the televote. The jury, nonetheless, did value the entry and ended up awarding "Eaea" a total of 95 points:

– We're very proud of Blanca Paloma. She makes wonderful music and we knew it would be something very different for everyone else, but we want to showcase to the world the quality Spain has to offer and Blanca was an example of that. Throughout the years, we'll be in better and worse positions but that's something that we cannot control, explains Leire.

Spain 2022: Chanel – "SloMo"

Maria Boj is onboard with Leire but admits that RTVE obviously wants another victory for the country:

– Spain's interest in winning Eurovision is evident and all of RTVE's efforts are focused on that. To say we don't want to win wouldn't be true, she clarifies.

– All the countries that participate in Eurovision do so with their sight set on victory. But I do think that, in recent years, Spain's priority is to send songs that stand out mainly for their quality. It needs to be an entry that represents Spain and our culture. Achieving that is the real victory.

The commitment stands strong?

– Of course, the commitment of the townhall of Benidorm has been here since the beginning and will continue to be. The Benidorm Fest is an incredible trademark for the city that helps us selling it to a lot of new people even if music has always been around us, explains Leire making a reference to the Festival Español de la Canción de Benidorm that was held from 1959 to 2006 in a similar format to Italy's Festival di Sanremo.

– Music is in the city's DNA. Besides the Benidorm Fest and the previous Festival Español de la Canción de Benidorm, music is all around. Every night, we have more than 350 shows with singers, so the townhall is very proud on making this effort and having the Benidorm Fest held here.

Spain's interest in winning Eurovision is evident and all of RTVE's efforts are focused on that.Maria Boj

It really is all around the city. Besides the countless bars and clubs, the city is packed with tribute acts that range from ABBA (Sweden 1974) to Dua Lipa to Madonna.

– The festival is extremely important to us because it showcases the quality we work with. It allows us to demonstrate our full potential as an European public broadcaster, continues Maria.

– Furthermore, the Benidorm Fest is already a reference format in the Spanish music industry. In just three years it is the most important musical event in Spain and artists see it as a great opportunity. Benidorm Fest is a clear example of the public service that RTVE owes itself to.

Since its beginning, the Benidorm Fest has been able to give space and a career to so many different artists. Chanel (Spain 2022) is currently a main name in the Spanish music industry, last year's third place Vicco (Benidorm Fest 2023) had one of the biggest songs in the country thanks to the festival, and even Megara (Benidorm Fest 2023) went on to conquer San Marino and will represent the nation in Eurovision 2024 with "11:11":

Spain Benidorm Fest 2023: Vicco – "Nochentera"

– The goal is to have this show and give an opportunity to singers that otherwise couldn't echo their efforts. A great example is Vicco, who ranked third last year. She didn't win but she is everywhere nowadays and that's exactly what we want with Benidorm Fest, Leire says.

She goes on to say that both Chanel and Blanca Paloma claim they were born in Benidorm as it opened so many doors for them. The same feeling must be shared between so many other acts: Sofía Martín (Benidorm Fest 2023), José Otero (Benidorm Fest 2023), E'femme (Benidorm Fest 2023), and Gonzalo Hermida (Benidorm Fest 2022) are a few of the acts that RTVE continues to invite as part of the Benidorm Fest family to enjoy the exposure of the show.

In one of Benidorm Fest's last press conferences, María Eizaguirre, RTVE's head of communication, stated:

– I think that the success of this edition is linked with the ability of the songs to reach and connect to the audience. RTVE is here to support all of those who have a dream to fulfill, to unite, and to help others have a voice.

Benidorm Fest 2025

When all was said and done, Nebulossa won this year's Benidorm Fest with their Electropop song "Zorra." The duo went on to win both the televote as well as the jury vote (tied with St. Pedro), and will represent Spain in Eurovision 2024.

What's more, the Benidorm Fest effect was felt as soon as this year's songs were released. In a matter of days, "Zorra" became the top viral song on Spain's Spotify:

– Just like it happened with Vicco last year, I think the same will happen with Nebulossa and so many other songs from the festival. This year, we had around six songs that would've been great representatives of Spain at Eurovision, shares Leire.

Spain 2024: Nebulossa – "Zorra"

We will never know how each of the non-selected entries would do in Malmö, but we know that a new edition of the Benidorm Fest is confirmed and the goal is to make it bigger, better and accessible to everyone:

– The greatest achievement and the greatest challenge remains the same for RTVE: that artists from across the spectrum of the music industry want to participate in Benidorm Fest. We want everyone, from the most emerging artists to the most established ones, to see the festival as a great cultural platform, explains Maria.

– If, in addition to that, we manage to bring the glass microphone to Spain, then better.

She continues:

– RTVE, the Benidorm City Council and the Generalitat Valenciana (the three institutions involved in the organization) are convinced that this has only just begun and together we want to continue building the festival.

With almost a year to go, if still undecided, Maria has a message:

– We will always welcome with open arms anyone who wants to come because all together is how we make Benidorm Fest great.

But remember to have an open agenda because whether it's a swim on the beach, an e-bike tour around the city (or a jeep tour if you're lazier), a drink with a view, or paying a visit to the Benidorm Island, the city has so much more to offer. Leire describes Benidorm as a "city for everyone":

– Benidorm is indeed for everyone. It doesn't matter what you're looking for, you'll find it. It's not just about the festival, she says.

We will always welcome with open arms anyone who wants to come because all together is how we make Benidorm Fest great.Maria Boj

– We have so much happening around the city. During the Benidorm Fest week, we also have the Tapas Fest, a gastronomy festival where you can taste many tapas around the area. You can also visit our themed parks, enjoy our nightlife, our skyscrapers, go scuba diving or, of course, get tanned on our wonderful beaches and enjoy our warm climate.

– We're a little city, but you can find plenty of activities to enjoy yourself. It's not a city for a specific age group, it's extremely safe and sustainable.

So, pack your bags because as Sofia Coll (Benidorm Fest 2024) says, Benidorm Fest is "here to stay."

The city of Benidorm invited Eurovisionworld to cover Benidorm Fest ’24. Travel and accommodation were paid for by the city.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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