Rise in foreign visitors to Spain picks up steam

A rise in the number of foreign visitors to Spain picked up steam in April as arrivals from its two main markets, Britain and Germany, posted doubLe-digit growth, official data showed Monday.

Spain welcomed 4.7 million foreign tourists last month, a 20.95 percent jump from the same time last year, bringing total arrivals in the first four months of 2011 to 13.8 million - up 8.5 percent, the tourism ministry said.

The number of arrivals last month was boosted by the fact that the Easter week holidays this year were held in April while last year they were split between the end of March and the start of April, it said in a statement.

The number of tourists from Spain's main market Britain soared 42 percent in April over the same time last year to 1.15 million while the number of visitors from Germany rose 11.4 percent to 817,000.

The tourism industry, a mainstay of the economy, received a boost this year as the unrest in the Arab world cause tourists to switch to Spain rather than risk booking a holiday in a potential trouble spot.

The economic recovery underway in several northern European countries, especially Germany, has also contributed to the rise in visitor numbers to Spain as more people from those nations go on foreign holidays.

The Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, where resorts tend to offer all-inclusive packages like those available at seaside resorts in Tunisia and Egypt, saw the biggest jump in foreign tourist arrivals.

The archipelago received 912,977 foreign tourists in April, a 19.3 percent increase over the same time last year, bringing total arrivals in the first four months of 2011 to 3.7 million, up 26.7 percent.

Spain slipped from third to fourth place among the world's most visited countries in 2010, behind France, the United States and China, according to figures from the UN World Tourism Organisation.

It received 52.6 million foreign visitors last year, up slightly from 52.5 million in 2009.