Tourists from Germany arrive at Palma Airport following Berlin's lifted quarantine requirement for travellers returning from the Balearic Islands amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. | ENRIQUE CALVO


Spain hopes the number of foreign tourists visiting its sun-kissed islands and picturesque villages can rebound this year to half pre-pandemic levels, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said on Monday.

"Maybe the ideal goal is ... to get half of the tourists we had in 2019. This, for the industry, would be an achievement," she said in an event held by Europa Press news agency.

In 2019, Spain had the world's second highest number of foreign visitors at more than 80 million. This plummeted by more than 80% to 19 million tourists in 2020, the lowest level since 1969, as a result of the travel restrictions imposed to curb the pandemic.

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While tourism accounted for around 12% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 and one job in eight, activity plunged in 2020. The industry accounted for between 4% and 5% of Spain’s national output, according to estimates from the Funcas think-tank.

The Spanish government is among countries pushing hard for international vaccine certificates to be ready for the summer season.

Tens of thousands of German tourists arrived in the Balearic islands at the weekend, in a welcome boost for local tourism that has created some controversy at home as Spaniards cannot go because of a travel ban.