37.5 million international tourists visited Spain in the first half of 2023, a 24% increase from the same period in 2022, the government announced on Wednesday.
The figure is still lower than for the same period in 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic, when 38 million tourists arrived. But officials say the numbers are a sign that international tourism has rebounded strongly since the health crisis.
Visitors from the UK topped the tourist list, totalling some 8 million, followed by around 5 million tourists from both France and Germany. Catalonia, including Barcelona and the Costa Brava, was the most visited area.
Foreign tourism is crucial to the Spanish economy. Before the pandemic, its tourism sector normally accounted for 12.3% of the country’s GDP – and it usually generates more than 2.6 million jobs in the country.
Spain had been the second most visited country in the world in 2019, receiving 83.7m visitors during the full year. The number of foreign tourists who visited during 2020 following the outbreak of Covid, however, fell by over 80% to 19 million, the lowest figure since 1969.
31.1 million international tourists then visited Spain during 2021. The Spanish government had hoped to see 45 million foreign visitors in 2021, around half the pre-pandemic figure. The number of foreign visitors in 2022 was around 70 million, still 15% lower than in 2019.