Spain heads for record tourism year

Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:44am EDT
 
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By Clare Kane

MADRID (Reuters) - Sunseekers spurning unrest in Egypt and Turkey flocked to Spain in record numbers last month, setting the country up for its best-ever year for visitors and giving a boost to the ailing economy.

"It is very likely that 2013 will be the best year historically for tourism," Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria told a news conference on Monday, adding that estimates for the fourth quarter were positive.

Tourism contributed over 5 percent of Spain's economy or GDP in 2012 and provided around 900,000 jobs, according to Euromonitor, in a country where one in four is out of work, meaning a boost to tourist figures should be good news as other sectors flag.

The number of international tourist arrivals in August rose to 8.3 million, figures from the tourism ministry showed, lifting the total for January through August by 4.5 percent on the year before to 42.3 million.

Those visitors spent a total of 40.4 billion euros ($54.6 billion), up 7 percent from 2012.

Political upheaval in other destinations has also benefited other Mediterranean countries, such as Greece.

But not everyone in Spain is celebrating the increase. Domestic travel fell by 6.9 percent between January and July, hitting destinations off the main tourist trail, so businesses and hotels reliant on city tourism suffered.

Two ends of the travel spectrum in particular are cashing in on the influx of international visitors - homeowners taking advantage of a growing preference for low-cost rents, and luxury stores whose clients are shielded from the worst of the economy's woes.   Continued...

 
Tourists pose for a picture outside the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Paul Hanna