Spain is facing 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 to 23.6 million during the first half of 2009, 11.4 percent less than over the same time last year.
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 the pound 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.
The government last week approved a new stimulus package for the tourism sector worth $1.4 billion, taking the total government spending on tourism to $2.8 billion 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.
However, Sebastian told TV channel TVE, the country is focusing on bringing in new visitors through new programs (such as scientific tourism, cultural tourism and gastronomic tourism) to raise revenues.
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.