Over 71 million foreign tourists visited Spain in 2022, minister says
RABAT (Reuters) - More than 71 million international tourists visited Spain in 2022, spending on average more money and time in the country than before the COVID-19 pandemic, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said on Wednesday.
The total number was still below 2019, when a record 83.5 million people visited Spain from abroad, according to data from the National Statistics Institute (INE).
"The tourism sector is regaining its vigour and providing not only an important economic impact, but also a social and territorial one," Maroto told reporters in Rabat, where a Spanish government delegation including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was set to meet with Moroccan counterparts later on Wednesday.
The minister's remarks came ahead of INE's publication of last year's official tourism data scheduled for Thursday.
She added that the longer average stays recorded, which reached nearly eight days, reflected the government's push to transition its tourism model towards sustainability and digitalisation with the help of European Union funds.
Foreign tourists spent a total of 87 billion euros ($94.8 billion) last year, Maroto said.
Spain received 31 million foreign tourists in 2021 as COVID restrictions eased after only hosting 19 million visitors in 2020 - a level not seen since 1969 - when the pandemic severely limited international travel, INE data showed.
"2023 is again going to be extraordinary, despite the context of the war and the uncertainties linked to inflation and energy costs," she said.
After France, Spain was the world's second most visited country before the pandemic, with the sector representing about 12% of gross domestic product.
Holidaymakers flock to its beaches and historic buildings while trendy cities like Barcelona and Madrid remain popular for short breaks.
($1 = 0.9172 euro)
(Reporting by Belén Carreño; writing by David Latona, editing by Jonathan Oatis)