Madrid – The Spanish government is to help the country’s tourism industry deal with the effects of the global financial crisis by supplying a cash injection worth some 400 million euros (500 million dollars), Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez said on Saturday.

The aid packet is intended to help modernize the tourism industry and make Spain a more attractive tourist destination, local media reports said, particularly through interest-free loans for small and medium enterprises in the tourism sector.

Tourism accounts for some 11 per cent of Spain’s Gross National Product (GNP), and is an important pillar of the Spanish economy. In the first ten months of 2008 51.7 million foreign tourists visited the country, according to the tourism ministry, 1.4 per cent less than the corresponding period in 2007. A two-per-cent fall for the whole of 2008 over the previous year is expected.