THE number of foreign tourists visiting Spain went up by 64.4% last year compared to 2020 levels, but the total was still nearly 60% below the 2019 figure.

The National Statistics Institute says 31.1 million people visited Spain last year, compared to 19 million in 2020.

There is still a lot of ground to make up as in 2019, Spain recorded a record-breaking year as it welcomed 83.5 million overseas tourists.

2021 did end better than expected despite the first cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Tourism Minister, Reyes Maroto, said: “December’s figures allowed us to meet our end-of-year forecasts, which is very good considering the uncertainty generated by Omicron, which has not had the expected negative impact.”

Foreign tourists spent €34.82 billion in Spain last year, compared with €19.79 billion in 2020 and €91.91 billion in 2019.

Looking ahead to the next 11 months, Reyes Maroto, said: “2022 will consolidate a recovery in the tourism sector and Spain will take advantage of its strengths compared to other rival destinations.”

Most tourist-related businesses are looking forward to the Easter holiday period for the first rush of the year.

It will be a key time for hotels after the Hosbec hoteliers association in the Valencian Community this week described 2021 as a ‘touristic disaster’ for their members in Benidorm and across the Costa Blanca.

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