Historical evolution

The origin of Torrevieja dates back to ancient times, as various studies attest. The original population center, as a coastal enclave, was protected by the location of towers, due to the importance of the salt extraction originally carried out from the Mata lagoon. With the transfer of salt extraction to the Torrevieja lagoon, the administrative foundation of the current town took place, at the beginning of the 19th century. Since its origins, urban and demographic development have been directly associated with salt production and sea activities, in such a way that the town's economy, in the 19th century, was based on the exploitation of salt mines, fishing, smuggling. with the North African coast and transatlantic maritime trade, mostly to Cuba and Puerto Rico (Huertas Morión, 1981). However, at the end of the 19th century, trade with the American colonies stopped, and fishing and trade with the North African colonies became relevant.

In 1884, a relevant event occurred for the municipality and that is that the railway was inaugurated (as the Albatera-Torrevieja branch of the Murcia-Alicante line operated by the Andalusian Railways company) which contributed to the development of the local and regional economy ( Cañizares Llanes, 2013). On the one hand, the entry and distribution of colonial products was facilitated, and on the other hand, it allowed the movement of the population of the region to use beaches and spas; incipient tourism in the municipality, understood as a summer function (Pérez-Montesinos, 2017; Vera Rebollo, 1984).

During the conflict of 1914-1918, commercial shipping reached its peak, to which the construction of ships in local shipyards contributed. In the 1950s, the salt dock was built, promoting growth in the exploitation and export of salt from the Torrevieja salt flats (Celdrán-Bernabeu and Molina, 2004). Thus, until 1960, economic activity in Torrevieja was based on three large sectors: the salt mines, fishing and navigation. However, from this moment on, the great transformation of the municipality began linked to the tourism phenomenon and, especially, to construction activity (Cañizares Llanes, 2013; Vera Rebollo, Ivars-Baidal and Celdrán-Bernabeu, 2016). .

In the 1960s, the first foreign tourists began to arrive, mainly Swedes, attracted by the differences in climate and landscape (Sala Aniorte, 2016). Subsequently, other tourists from Germany and the United Kingdom began to move, whose motivation was also the climate, the beach and fun (Pérez-Montesinos, 2017), added to the national tourists who also wanted to enjoy this Mediterranean environment. Thus, tourist activity, which emerged in this stage, is the starting point of mass consumption that acted as a stimulus for the local economy and marked the beginning of the transformation of the urban and territorial system (Vera Rebollo, Ivars-Baidal and Celdrán-Bernabeu, 2016; Pérez-Montesinos, 2017).

In the case of Torrevieja, the tourism growth model was based on the residential aspect, that is, on the construction of new settlements created ex novo on the coastal strip or, in the pre-existing urban core, for seasonal accommodation as a second residence owned or for vacation rentals (Vera Rebollo, Ivars-Baidal and Celdrán-Bernabeu, 2016). In this way, the local population begins to leave the other productive sectors (salt mines, fishing and navigation), since the tourism and construction sector offered more profitability in the short term. Therefore, and as has happened in other Spanish coastal towns, the city has specialized in the service sector, causing a loss of importance in the other sectors. In particular, Torrevieja ceases to be a town dedicated to primary activities, to become a tourist destination dominated by the promotion and sale of second homes (Vera Rebollo, Ivars-Baidal and Celdrán- Bernabeu, 2016; Pérez-Montesinos, 2017) .