Spain is the hotel capital of Europe, according to figures released February 22 by the European Union.

In total, hotel-goers booked 251 million overnight stays in Spain during 2009, compared to 238 million nights in Italy. Germany took third place with 216 million nights, France fourth with 191 million and the UK fifth with 170 million nights in its hotels. In total, the top five countries accounted for 70 percent of overall nights spent in hotels in the 27-country block.

Travelers occupied Europe's hotel rooms in 2009 for a combined total of nearly 1.5 billion overnight stays, a fall of 5.1 percent. This includes both business and leisure travel. Sweden was the only country to increase the number of people staying in hotels, posting a fractional 0.1 percent rise. The largest fall in the number of  overnight stays in hotels were seen in Latvia (-23.3 percent), Lithuania (-20.4 percent), Cyprus (-19.7 percent) and Slovakia (-18.1 percent).

The biggest beneficiary of domestic tourism was Romania, where 85 percent of room bookings came from domestic residents. The highest proportion of non-residents (visitors) was recorded on the Mediterranean islands of Malta (96 percent) and Cyprus (89 percent), followed by Latvia (73 percent).

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