BARCELONA (AFP): The number of foreign tourists visiting Spain rose sharply this summer as Covid-19 travel restrictions were lifted but arrivals remained below the level seen before the pandemic, official figures showed Tuesday.
Spain, the world’s second most visited country before the pandemic, welcomed 9.1 million foreigners in July, and 8.8 million in August, national statistics institute INE said.
That represents a 106.2 percent increase in arrivals in July from the same month last year, and a 69.7 percent jump in August from the same year-ago period, it added.
But the total number of arrivals during the two months — 17.9 million — remained lower than the record 20 million seen in 2019 before the pandemic-related travel restrictions ravaged the global tourism industry.
Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto called the arrival figures for the two peak holiday months “extraordinary”.
“We are facing an autumn without inflation and the uncertainty caused by the war” in Ukraine hurting the sector’s recovery “for now,” she added in a statement.
During the first eight months of the year Spain welcomed 48 million foreign tourists, equivalent to 83 percent of its pre-pandemic level.
The largest number of visitors during the period were British, accounting for more than 10 million arrivals, followed by French, who made up seven million visits, and Germans, who accounted for 2.3 million.
In the same period, the most popular destinations were the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic Isles, the Canary Islands and Andalusia in the south, the INE said.
Spain in 2019 hit a record for the seventh year in a row, welcoming a total of 83.5 million foreign tourists. Only France received more that year.
The number of foreign visitors plunged to 19 million the following year due to the pandemic.
Last year only 31.1 million foreigns visited Spain, well below the 45 million expected by the government.
Tourism accounts for some 12 percent of Spain’s gross domestic output and the drop in arrivals hit the economy, the eurozone’s fourth largest, hard.