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Spain tourist income surpasses pre-pandemic levels

Spain’s income from tourism activity surged in 2022, surpassing levels last seen before the pandemic, the Exceltur tourism association said Tuesday.

Last year’s tourism earnings reached an estimated 159 billion euros ($172 billion), an increase of 1.4 percent on 2019, beating expectations notably in the second half, marking “the full recovery of tourism activity in Spain”, it said.

Although the figures showed the tourism sector accounted for 12.2 percent of the Spanish economy last year, it remained slightly lower than the 12.6 percent registered in 2019.

“In contrast to the many predictions to the contrary, which were proved wrong during the second half, 2022 marked the full recovery of tourism activity in Spain,” it said in a statement.

After a “dazzling surge in tourist numbers” last summer, Spain had expressed confidence it would achieve a full recovery in the hope of regaining its pre-pandemic status as the world’s second-favourite holiday destination behind France.

The recovery was largely driven by national tourism which saw a “significant increase…that started in April”.

Although the number of foreign visitors was 14.6 percent lower than in 2019, spending only fell by 3.8 percent between January and November, with the lower numbers offset by longer stays and a trend towards buying premium tourist products.

The most popular regions for foreign visitors were the sunny beaches of the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and Andalusia.

Tourism is a strategic sector for Spain, which had close to 84 million visitors in 2019 before the pandemic took hold in early 2020.