MADRID - Holidaymakers headed to recession-hit Spain in record numbers in July, official data showed Wednesday, propelled in particular by a boom in the number of German tourists.
Foreign tourist numbers surged by 328,000, or 4.4 percent, from last year to an unprecedented 7.7 million in July, said a tourism survey released by the government.
Tourism is crucial to the Spanish economy, accounting for 10 percent of gross domestic product.A surge in the number of German tourists packing their bags for Spain was mostly responsible for the gains, but numbers were also up sharply from France, the United States, Portugal and the Nordic nations.
But despite British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg taking their holidays in Spain, overall British tourist arrivals stagnated, rising just 0.5 percent.
Some 1.76 million British tourists came to Spain in July, still making up the biggest single share — 22.9 percent of the total. The most popular destination for Britons was the Balearic islands, which include Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza.
Tourism numbers from Germany surged by 9.7 percent to 1.18 million, accounting for 15.2 percent of the total. “It was the main driver of the increase for the month,” the survey said.
French holidaymaker arrivals were also a major factor, with numbers up by 7.7 percent accounting for 16.5 percent of the total.Among other nations, tourist numbers surged from the United States by 27 percent, from Portugal by 14.7 percent and from Nordic countries including Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark by 14.5 percent.
The favourite region was northeastern Spain’s Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, with tourist numbers up by nine percent from a year earlier to more than two million, more than a quarter of the national total.
Spain’s economy is in engulfed in the second recession in three years with unemployment at 24.6 percent — the highest in the industrialised world — and the banking sector in crisis.
As the world’s fourth biggest tourism destination, Spain hopes to leverage the industry to keep its economy going.
Foreign tourists are awaited with even more interest this year after the tourism industry warned in July that summer bookings by Spaniards for holidays in their own country were down 30 percent from last year.