Spain tourist arrivals slump 76% in March, recovery still far off

FILE PHOTO: A person teaches surfing to children at Barceloneta beach in Barcelona, Spain April 3, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Foreign tourism in Spain in March fell 76% from a year ago when a lockdown was imposed in mid-month, data showed on Thursday, meaning a recovery of the crucial sector from the hammer blow of COVID-19 is not yet in sight.

Spain, the world's second most visited country before the pandemic, received 490,088 foreign tourists in March, down from just over two million in March 2020, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE).

Compared to pre-pandemic March 2019, the number was down more than 90%, but it was however higher than the 284,000 tourists registered in February.

Amid stricter travel restrictions in place with Britain, French tourists replaced Britons as the most numerous in Spain compared to a year earlier. More than 109,000 French visited Spain in March, while only 18,000 Britons came.

Tourists spent 513 million euros ($618 million) during that month, also 76% less than in March 2021, INE said.

The number of foreign tourists who visited Spain in 2020 fell by more than 80% to a level not seen in half a century as a result of travel restrictions imposed globally to curb the spread of coronavirus contagion.

($1 = 0.8300 euros)

(Reporting by Cristina Galán, Editing by Inti Landauro and Mark Heinrich)

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