MADRID: Spain attracted just over nine million foreign visitors in August, the highest ever figure for a single month, the government said Monday, setting the country up for its best-ever year for tourism and giving a boost to the economy.
The number of foreign tourists rose 8.8 percent in August over the same time last year to an unprecedented 9.07 million, the tourism ministry said in a statement.
It is the first time that Spain, the world’s third most popular tourism destination after the United States and France, has attracted over nine million foreign visitors in a single month, it added.
The recovery in Britain and Germany — where most visitors to Spain traditionally come from — has fueled the tourism boom, which has also been helped by holidaymakers shunning traditional competitors such as Egypt and Turkey because of political turmoil.
Tourism is crucial to the slowly recovering yet jobs-scarce Spanish economy, accounting for about 11 percent of all economic activity.
Spain has shown a gradual economic pick-up since emerging from recession in mid-2013 but still suffers from a 24-percent unemployment rate.
British tourists led the influx in August, the height of the summer holidays, with 2.14 million visitors, followed by the French, with 1.98 million visitors, and Germans, with 1.29 million.
The number of holidaymakers from Russia fell by 8.6 percent to 260,124 as the weak Russian ruble and the crisis over Ukraine took its toll.
Visitors from the United States soared by 35.4 percent in August to 147,404.The most popular destinations were the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the southern region of Andalusia, which are famous for their beaches.
Overall visitor numbers during the first eight months of 2014 hit 45.38 million, a 7.3 percent increase over the same time last year.
Spain lured a record 60.6 million international visitors last year the government predicts this figure will be surpassed in 2014.