International tourist arrivals in Spain

International tourist arrivals grew by over four percent in 2011 and would continue to rise in 2012, the Madrid-based World Tourist Organization (UNWTO) said on Monday.

According to the latest UNWTO barometer for tourism, international tourist numbers rose to 980 million in 2011, a year marked by economic problems, political instability in North Africa and the Middle East and the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The figure is 41 million more than 2010.

“International tourism hit new records in 2011 despite the challenging conditions,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at a press conference ahead of the FITUR tourism exhibition which will open in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.

“For a sector directly responsible for 5 percent of the world’s GDP, 6 percent of total exports and employing one out of every 12 people in advanced and emerging economies alike, these results are encouraging… at a time in which we urgently need levers to stimulate growth and job creation,” he said.

Europe performed strongly last year despite the economic problems. It saw a six-percent rise and accounted for 28 million of the 41 million increase.

International arrivals in South America rose by 10 percent, the highest rate.

Emerging markets were the top spenders in international tourism, with China spending 38 percent more than a year earlier and Indian tourists increased their spending by 32 percent.

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