Spain projects 10% decline in foreign visitors


MADRID — The Spanish government said Thursday it expects to see a 10 percent drop this year in the number of foreign tourists in the country, the world’s third most popular holiday destination.

“We expect a fall in international tourism of around 10 percent this year,” Secretary of State for Tourism Joan Mesquida told Spanish national radio.

However, he noted that domestic tourism had held up, even though the country entered a recession in late 2008.

“Spaniards have not given up their holidays. The domestic market has performed in a very similar way to last year,” Mesquida said.

The tourism sector accounts for about 11 percent of Spain’s jobs and gross domestic product, with the bulk of the industry’s income generated in its ageing “sun and beach” destinations that dot its southern coast.

The country last year lost its spot as the second-most visited country in the world to the United States, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. France remained in the top spot.

A total of 30.2 million people visited Spain in the first seven months of the year — a 10.3 decline over the corresponding period in 2008.

The global recession and the emergence of cheaper sunshine destinations in other Mediterranean countries like Turkey and Tunisia are factors blamed for the decline.