Spain is expected to replace the US as the world’s second-biggest tourism destination, while France has retained the top spot, the Madrid based UN World Tourism Organization said on Monday.
Spain could take the second position with some 82 million visitors last year, UNWTO Chief Zurab Pololikashvili was quoted as telling AFP News. Zurab Pololikashvil took over the lead as Secretary General just 2 weeks ago, he was the Georgian Ambassador in Madrid.
John Kester, head of tourism trends at the UN agency, said that “everything indicates” that France would retain its top spot in 2017, which was a good year for the industry as the number of global tourists leaped 7 percent compared to 2016, the largest increase in seven years.
It is expected” that Spain will take the second position with some 82 million visitors last year, UNWTO chief Zurab Pololikashvili told reporters.
Definitive figures, however, will only be published in the spring.
“The United States doesn’t have its information for 2017. They usually publish it in June,” Pololikashvili said.
He did not give any further details about the United States, nor did he explain what earned Spain the second spot despite a terror attack in August and a highly mediatized independence crisis in tourism magnet Catalonia, home to Barcelona and Costa Brava beaches.
Europe attracted a large number of visitors, up eight percent from the previous year, lured in particular by Mediterranean countries’ sea and sun, including in Turkey.
Pololikashvili added that other countries that had suffered a drop in visitor numbers due to deadly attacks were recovering as well, saying the tourism in Turkey and Tunisia had improved.
In 2016, Spain registered 75.3 million visitors, just behind the United States with 75.6 million, while France easily remained the world leader with 82.6 million visitors, according to the UNWTO.
International tourism to the United States decreased during the first five months of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to the US International Trade Administration.
Arrivals fell five percent in the first quarter and three percent in the second quarter, official figures show.