The economy of the city of Alicante is based mainly on the service sector, which employs 86% of the workforce in 2007. Among the economic activities performed in Alicante, commerce is the most important, which was historically influenced by the presence of the Mediterranean port. The commercial activities of the city have great power of attraction for most of the province. Currently, the city of Alicante is ranked fifth in importance in Spain, only surpassed by cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville.
Tourism, already present in the mid-nineteenth century, but mainly developed since 1950, is also another important activity in the city, supported by the mild climate, beaches, historic heritage (Castillo de Santa Barbara, Church of Santa Mary, Cathedral of St. Nicholas, Old Town, etc.) and leisure.
Furthermore, Alicante is a center of financial activity, with the Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM) having its headquarter office in this city. There are also important administrative activities, as the province of Alicante has one of the greatest economic output in Spain. Alicante is the headquarters of the Office for Harmonization of the Internal Market (Oficina de Armonización del Mercado Interior – OAMI), as well as the European Agency for the registration of trademarks and designs.
Concerning education, the University of Alicante, located in San Vicente del Raspeig, with over 33,000 students also attracts a large number of foreign students each year.
The industry employs 5.7% of the population of the municipality. We could list aluminum factories, the tobacco industry, machinery, building materials, and food. Within the metropolitan area, the manufacturing activities are of great importance in the municipality of San Vicente del Raspeig (a place that has served the area for industrial expansion and congestion in the capital), where the largest factory agglomeration of Alicante is situated – multinational Cemex factory of cement. The main industrial areas of the municipality are polygons of Las Atalayas, el del Pla de la Vallonga, el de Agua Amarga and the industrial area of Florida.
One of the principal sites in the economy of Alicante is its large Port. The port is in the full expansion phase, in order to be among the top 10 in Spain concerning the exchange of goods. Currently, some 15000 people work directly or indirectly in these facilities. Historically, the Port of Alicante has been closely tied to the fate of the city. In fact, much of the trade-in Alicante had as a starting point or destination this port. Its development was boosted in the seventeenth century, when Alicante began to trade with America, becoming the third-largest Spanish port.