MADRID: Spain triumphantly announced on Tuesday that it has retaken the number three spot in world tourism in 2013, overtaking China by luring a record 60.6 million international visitors.
Foreign tourist arrivals surged by 5.6 per cent in the year, the government said, boosting the Eurozone’s fourth largest economy after a long, job-wrecking recession.
“The new figures for 2013 allow our country to retake the number three position in this indicator after having overtaken China,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy boasted.
Spain now stood behind only France with 83 million international tourist arrivals and second placed United States with 67 million, Rajoy said.
Income from foreign tourists hit record levels, too, a significant contribution to the Spanish economy, which has just emerged from five years of stop-start recession that left the nation with a 26 per cent unemployment rate.
Spending by international tourists in the first 11 months of 2013 surged by 8.7 per cent from the same period last year to 55.9 billion euros ($76 billion), government figures showed.
Even without the official figures for the whole year, it is already possible to say that 2013 was a record in terms of tourism spending, Rajoy said.
“The implications of these figures are clear to everyone,” Rajoy said.
The tourism industry accounted for 10.9 per cent of Spain’s total economic output in 2012, and 11.9 per cent of all jobs, the prime minister said.
British tourists led the way to Spain in 2013, with some 14.3 million of them accounting for 23.6 per cent of all foreign tourists, said the report by Spain’s Industry, Energy and Tourism Ministry.
Next came Germany with 16.2 per cent of the total, France with 15.7 per cent, and Nordic countries with eight per cent.
Russian tourists accounted for 2.6 per cent of the total, but their numbers showed the biggest leap, soaring by 31.6 per cent from the previous year.
The top destinations in Spain were Catalonia, which drew 15.5 million foreign visitors, or 25.7 per cent of the total, followed by the Balearic Islands such as Majorca with 11.1 million international arrivals, or 18.3 per cent of the total.
Spanish tourism industry association Exceltur predicts the tourism industry will grow by 1.8 per cent in 2014.