STAFF REPORTER
PALMA/MADRID

THE Balearics was the region of Spain with the second highest number of international visitors last month, receiving more than traditional rival Andalucia and only beaten from the top spot by Catalonia, Central Government reports confirmed yesterday.

The Islands were the chosen holiday destination of more than 1.7 million tourists from all over the world, the best figures for July since the year 2000 when a register of visitor movements was set up by tourism watchdog “Frontur”.

The research shows that tourism in the Balearics in July this year grew by 9.2 percent in comparison with bookings made during the same month in 2009. However, the accumulated visitor figures so far this year stand at 5.1 million, 2.4 percent less than for the first 7 months of 2009.

The number of foreign tourists coming to Spain as a whole in July this year was 6.97 million, a growth of 4.5 percent in comparison with the same month in 2009 representing the largest upturn in bookings in the last 26 months.

Over the last 7 months, more than 30 million international tourists have come to Spain, numbers which are similar to the same period last year, showing a slight drop of 0.4 percent. This is a vast improvement in the fall in the number of visitors between July 2008 and July 2009 when figures plummeted by 10.3 percent.

In terms of the key client markets, the report by Frontur revealed that visitors from the United Kingdom went to make up 23.5 percent of the total, the French 18.4 percent and the Germans 15.3 percent.

Analysing the nature of accommodation chosen by foreign visitors last month, 4.18 million tourists (60 percent) stayed in hotels, an increase of 9.1 percent in comparison with July last year. The number of visitors who had other forms of accommodation such as apartments, pensions or inns, grew by 0.2 percent last July in comparison with the same month last year. Some 2.1 million tourists came to Spain as part of a package holiday deal last month, 4.8 percent more than in July 2009.

Meanwhile, Joan Mesquida, Spain's General Secretary for Tourism, said yesterday that he saw Frontur's figures as a “very positive” development. He said that following the damage to the tourist industry caused by Iceland's volcanic ash cloud and poor weather earlier in the year, tourism was “gradually recovering”. He said that although the growth in the number of tourists from the United Kingdom is still what he described as “slight,” there is a definite trend to break the hitherto two-year downward spiral.

On an international scale, Mesquida - a Majorcan - acknowledging the ascendancy of China in the tourist market, said that it was important to remain competitive and to modernise Spain's “sun, sea and sand” holiday offer.

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