Spain is bracing itself for a 10 percent fall in foreign tourist numbers this year due to the global downturn, according to the country’s Industry and Tourism Minister Miguel Sebastian.
The number of international tourists fell 11.4 percent during the first half of 2009 over the same time last year to 23.6 million, according to new government data.
The slump can be mainly attributed to a collapse in visitors from Britain, Spain’s largest inbound market, due to the economic downturn combined with the weakness of Sterling against the Euro.
The number of British tourists, who account for one in four of all visitors to Spain, dropped 16.6 percent during the period while the number of German tourists fell 11 percent.
“Our forecast is that the end of the year will be better than the data that we are seeing now. While we will close with a decline in arrivals it will not be more than 10 percent,” he told AFP after meeting with sector leaders of Palma de Mallorca.
The government last week approved a new stimulus package for the tourism sector worth €1bn, taking the total government spending on tourism to €2bn this year.
It is also hoping to target growing markets such as Russia and China and develop rural and cultural tourism to compensate for a decline in the traditional beach holiday.
“We are seeking through rural development, through new products like scientific tourism, cultural tourism, gastronomic tourism, to raise tourism revenues through better quality,” Sebastian told the TV channel TVE.
Spain received 57.4 million visitors last year, a 2.6 percent drop from 2007, and in doing so it lost its spot as the second-most visited country in the world to the U.S. according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation. France remained the world’s most popular holiday destination.
The tourism sector accounts for about 11 percent of Spain’s jobs and GDP.