| ||On the beaches of Mar del Plata, the search is on for vacant space to plant an umbrella. It’s the same every summer, when the people of Buenos Aires head for this resort town 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of the capital. In addition to its endless expanses of sandy beach, Mar del Plata – known as the Argentine Biarriz – has hundreds of picturesque and luxurious seafront villas. During its golden age at the turn of the century, it was the favored retreat of high society. Later, in the 1940s, its formerly exclusive beaches became a symbol of the first paid holidays decreed by Juan Domingo Peron, then Argentina’s secretary of labor. Since then, Mar del Plata has become a place of mass tourism, with newly built, much more modest accommodation for the middle classes. It is now Argentina’s largest resort town; during peak periods, it plays host to 4 to 6 million visitors, up to ten times its resident population. In 2004, tourism became the world’s largest industry, contributing 10 percent of global revenue.
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