MADRID – Spain welcomed eight times more tourists in the first quarter than in the same period last year, mainly thanks to British visitors returning to Spain after a two-year health crisis, according to official data released Thursday.
In the first three months of the year, 9.7 million foreign tourists came to Spain. That is an increase of almost 700% compared to 2021 (1.2 million). This is according to data from the National Statistics Institute INE.
The country welcomed four million travellers in March alone, compared to just 491,000 in March 2021. This figure reflects the clear recovery of the Spanish tourism sector. However, it is still a long way from that of the pre-pandemic period (71% of the figure in March 2019).
“Month after month, tourism continues to consolidate,” Spain’s Tourism Minister Maroto said in a statement, also saying she is “optimistic” for the spring and summer of 2022 given the trend seen over the Easter holidays.
In 2021 63% fewer tourists than in 2019
According to the INE, this dynamic is mainly explained by the return to Spain of British tourists. They formed the largest group of visitors in the first quarter with 1.8 million travellers, almost 30 times as many as in 2021.
The number of German tourists, the second contingent of visitors outside the Pyrenees, increased by 490% during this period (609,000 travellers in total), while the number of French tourists increased by 330% (457,000).
Tourist spending is increasing
Spain also benefited from a sharp increase in tourist spending, reaching €11.9 billion. In March alone, the average expenditure of foreign visitors was even higher than that of the pre-pandemic period, at €1,257 compared to €1,068 in March 2019.
Spain suffered greatly from mobility restrictions
As the second tourist destination in the world after France before the health crisis, with 83.5 million foreign visitors, Spain has suffered for two years from mobility restrictions intended to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, the country welcomed just 19 million visitors. And last year only 31.1 million travellers visited the country, while the government had expected 45 million.