Foreign tourism to Portugal has best first quarter ever
LISBON (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal surpassed 2.8 million from January through March, making it the best first quarter on record despite high global inflation and interest rates, data from the National Statistics Institute (INE) showed on Friday.
Measuring only foreigners staying in Portuguese hotels, the number by far topped 1.8 million people a year ago, and was above the 2.5 million reported in the first three months of 2019, which was a record year for tourism, before the COVID-19 pandemic crippled global travel in 2020.
Tourism, a key driver of Portugal's economy, accounted for almost 15% of gross domestic product before the pandemic.
The INE earlier on Friday said Portugal's economic growth accelerated sharply to 1.6% in the first quarter from the previous three-month period, stoked by net exports that include revenue from tourism.
In March alone, more than 1.2 million guests entered the country, with visitors from Britain accounting for the largest share of arrivals, followed by neighbouring Spain and the United States, which has recently grown as a source of tourism to Portugal.
It may also have received an additional inflow of visitors after February's devastating earthquake in Turkey - a major tourism destination - and thanks to the general perception of Portugal as a safe place, far from the war ravaging Ukraine.
(Reporting by Patricia Vicente Rua; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Bill Berkrot)