Tourists on the beach. | miquel a. ca

Spain’s important tourism industry has returned better than expected figures so far in 2017 as holidaymakers appeared to have rediscovered the country’s attractions amid turmoil and safety concerns in other once-popular destinations, statistics compiled by an industry monitoring agency revealed yesterday.

The number of foreign tourists that visited Spain in the first five months of this year nearly reached the 28-million mark, a figure that was 11.6 percent higher than in 2016, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said. According to data it provided, Spain received 7.9 million international visitors just in the month of May, an 11.7 percent increase year-on-year.

Most of the tourists came from the United Kingdom (6.4 million) and Germany (over four million).
The majority of holidaymakers from abroad (more than 23 million) arrived via airplane, a 13-percent rise compared to the same period in 2016, the INE said.

The bulk of travellers stayed for an average length of 4-7 nights, a choice made by almost 13.8 million tourists, 9.9 percent more than in the previous year between January-May.

The figures represent an improvement on those predicted by Spain’s hoteliers who on Monday already presented an optimistic forecast for the upcoming summer season, foreseeing that the number of foreign tourists visiting the Iberian nation would increase by almost 9 percent compared to 2016.

The head of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (Cehat), Juan Molas, said during a press conference that Spain is expected to welcome 56.7 million visitors from abroad between January and August, about 8.8-8.9 percent higher than in the same period last year.

“If our reservation forecasts are met and there are no anomalies, according to this increase’s weighted average it could be that we surpass the 80-million figure by the end of the year,” Molas added.

As to Spain’s internal market, reservations between January-August were estimated to be 6-7 percent higher than in 2016, although Molas pointed out that in some parts in the north of the peninsula, the growth was as high as 10 percent.

Cehat’s president stressed the recovery of Spain’s domestic tourism sector, which he said was now at the same level as before the severe economic crisis that hit Spain in 2008.