MADRID (Reuters) -Almost ten times as many tourists visited Spain in April compared to the same month last year, spending close to the amount that foreign visitors did before COVID-19, National Statistics Institute data showed on Wednesday.
Spain's tourism sector accounted for 12% of its economy before the pandemic but ground to a halt along with international travel in mid-2020. It embarked on a bumpy road to recovery in 2021 as those curbs gradually eased.
In April 6.1 million tourists visited, up from 629,000 a year earlier, spending 6.9 billion euros ($7.4 billion), also around ten times more than the previous year and just shy of the 7.1 bln euros spent in April 2019.
Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said visitors had on average spent more and stayed longer than before the pandemic. "We are moving towards a higher-quality and more profitable tourism model," she told an event in Madrid.
Maroto said she hoped that spending would reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022. "Our outlook for the coming year is very positive. The war (in Ukraine) and its economic consequences are not affecting the tourism recovery, but we have to be vigilant."
($1 = 0.9324 euros)
(Reporting by Christina Thykjaer and Emma Pinedo, editing by Inti Landauro, Toby Chopra and John Stonestreet)