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Spain’s tourist industry rebounded last year from the economic crisis that has battered the key sector, with the number of foreign visitors edging up 1.0 percent, the government said Monday.
Spain recorded 52.6 million international arrivals in 2010, up from 52.5 million in 2009, the tourism ministry said in a statement.
It was the first increase since 2007 and follows a decline of 8.7 percent in 2009 and of 2.3 percent in 2008, when the country plunged into recession amid the collapse of its once-booming property market and the global financial meltdown.
However, the Spanish figures compare to a global increase of 6.7 percent last year, according to data released last week by the UN World Tourism Organisation. Even in Western Europe, the number of international tourist arrivals was up 5.0 percent last year, the UNWTO said.
Spain’s tourism ministry noted a number of external factors had hurt the industry in 2010, including the ash cloud from the volcanic eruption in Iceland in April, a strike by air traffic controllers in Spain and bad weather in Europe and the United States in December.
“The tourism sector has shown its strength in the context of the crisis that we have experienced,” the statement said.
“The forecasts for 2010 showed a fall in tourism, but the sector has beaten the predictions of just six months ago and ended the year with positive figures, and tourist arrivals recorded the first increase since 2007.”
Britain was again the largest source market for Spain, followed by Germany and France.
But the number of arrivals from Britain was down 6.5 percent at 12.5 million, or 23.6 percent of the total.
In 2009, Spain lost its ranking as the world’s second most visited country to the United States, with France number one. The UNWTO has yet to release its country rankings for 2010.
Spain emerged from recession with tepid growth of just 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010 and 0.2 percent in the second but then stalled again with zero percent growth in the third.