MADRID – International travel to Spain is recovering fast and could allow the tourism-dependent nation to reach pre-pandemic foreign visitor levels by 2022, the government said on Wednesday after data showed a sharp rise in September arrivals.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Spain more than quadrupled in September from a year ago to nearly 4.7 million, data from the National Statistics Office showed, as widespread vaccination and looser travel restrictions enticed back more visitors.
“These data confirm a reactivation of international tourism is underway and that in 2022 we could recover pre-pandemic levels,” Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said in a statement.
Maroto cited Spain’s natural tourist attractions and its high level of vaccination – around 80% of the population – as driving forces behind the recovery.
She had said in the past foreign tourism would be half pre-pandemic level in 2021 up from less than 20% in 2020.
Unlike Italy and France, Spain does not require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter restaurants or bars, meaning unvaccinated visitors can enjoy their holiday without taking tests every few days.
Nevertheless, total arrivals were still far below the 8.8 million who came to Spain in September of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Tourists spent a total of 5.04 billion euros ($5.84 billion)in the country, soaring from the 964 million euros of the previous year but a long way off the 9.62 billion euros spent in September 2020.
Germans made up the largest group of foreign travellers, followed by Britons and French people, the data showed.
($1 = 0.8638 euros)
(Reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Inti Landauro and Angus MacSwan)