MADRID, May 5 (Reuters) – Spain received 4 million tourists in March, more than eight times as many as in the same month last year, after most pandemic-related restrictions were lifted, data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) showed on Thursday.
Foreign tourists spent 5.07 billion euros ($5.37 billion) while on holiday in the country in March, up from a mere 544 million euros a year earlier, the data showed.
“Spain closes this first quarter with good data on arrivals and tourist spending, a trend that we hope will intensify in the summer period,” Tourist Minister Reyes Maroto said on her Twitter account.
“Excellent employment figures together with the air capacity recovery make us optimistic,” she added.
The number of tourists flocking to Spain in March was still 1.6 million short of the number who arrived in March 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount spent back then was 6.03 billion euros.
International travel restrictions related to COVID-19 brought Spain’s economically vital tourism sector to its knees in 2020. Tourism accounted for 12% of Spain’s economy before the pandemic.
The industry began a gradual recovery in 2021, pausing briefly when the rapid spread of the Omicron variant led to a temporary new round of travel restrictions.
($1 = 0.9433 euros)
(Reporting by Christina Thykjaer, Editing by Inti Landauro and Jamie Freed)