LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal saw record high tourism last year, lifting hotel revenues to their highest since 2008 in a positive sign for the recession-hit, debt-laden economy, data showed on Monday.
While the recession prompted some hotels and restaurants to offer discounts to lure tourists, hotel rates on average rose by about 4 percent last year.
The number of foreign visitors staying in Portuguese hotels rose to 7.44 million, beating 2008's record 7.12 million and up nearly 9 percent from 2010, data released by the National Statistics Institute showed.
Hotel revenues rose almost 6 percent from 2010 to about 1.91 billion euros ($2.52 billion) despite a near 8 percent drop in December, but fell short of a record of 1.96 billion euros set in 2008, when the global economic crisis began unfurling.
Portugal is mired in its worst recession since the 1970s as the government is implementing tough austerity measures under a 78 billion euro EU/IMF bailout. As a result, many Portuguese are choosing to take their holidays at home rather than travel abroad, to save money.
The total number of visitors staying in hotels, including local travelers, rose to 14.1 million -- also an all-time high -- from the previous year's 13.6 million. Visitors also spent 6 percent more time at the hotels, or 2.8 nights on average.
Overall revenue from tourism, including hotels, accounts for around 10 percent of the Atlantic coastal Iberian country's gross domestic product.
($1 = 0.7582 euros)
Reporting By Andrei Khalip; Editing by Susan Fenton