Spain reports surge in tourism numbers

MADRID - Spain, the world's number-three tourism destination, reported Monday a surge in foreign holidaymakers early this year after breaking a new record in 2013.

The rise in tourism is key to the Spanish economy, struggling to gain strength after emerging gingerly last year from a two-year recession.

Foreign tourist numbers shot up 7.2 per cent from the same period last year to 10.1 million in the first three months of 2014, the tourism ministry said.

British holidaymakers topped the list, with 1.9 million visiting Spain in the three-month period, up 4.7 per cent from a year earlier.

French tourist numbers rose 11.5 per cent to 1.7 million while the number of Germans holidaying in Spain climbed 6.2 per cent to 1.6 million.

Biggest draws were the Canary Islands, Catalonia and Andalusia.

Last year, Spain retook the number three spot in world tourism from China, luring a record 60.6 million international visitors, behind only France with 83 million and the United States with 67 million.

Tourism in 2012 accounted for 10.9 per cent of Spanish economic output and 11.9 per cent of the country's jobs. Spain has an unemployment rate of 26.03 per cent.