MADRID – Spain welcomed a record 81.8 million tourists in 2017, leapfrogging the United States to become the second most-visited country in the world after France, according to the latest figures published by the National Statistics Institute (INE) on Thursday.
The surge in numbers was matched by a boost in tourism spending, with visitors spending a total of 86.8 billion euros ($108 billion) over the course of the year, 12.2 percent more than in 2016.
There was an 8.6 percent increase in the number of tourists compared to 2016, which saw roughly 75.5 million people choose Spain as a holiday destination; only in December did the monthly figures register a year-on-year drop of 0.2 percent.
The northeastern region of Catalonia, whose capital Barcelona is a stalwart destination for many a traveler in Spain, registered a slight drop in its annual figures towards the end of the year when it was subject to a period of political and social instability during a banned independence referendum.
Despite this, the region was the most visited overall in Spain, welcoming 19 million tourists, ahead of the sun-drenched Canary Islands with 14.2 million and the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Ibiza and Menorca, with 13.8 million.
Most foreign visitors to Spain came from the United Kingdom, Germany and France.