MADRID, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Spain received a record number of 82.8 million foreign tourists in 2018, a 1.1-percent year-on-year increase from 2017, according to data published on Friday by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics.
In December 2018 alone, 4.4 foreign tourists visited Spain, which was a year-on-year increase of 9.7 percent.
Although the numbers of foreign visitors to Spain continue to increase, the rate of growth has slowed considerably given that 2017 saw an 8.7-percent from 2016.
The most popular destinations in Spain in 2018 were the Catalan region in the northwest of the country, which welcomed 23.1 percent of all visitors -- around 19.1 million in total, followed by the Balearic Islands (16.7 percent) and the Canary Islands (16.6 percent).
Britain continued to be the main source market for tourists visiting Spain, totaling 18.5 million visitors, followed by Germany and France (11.4 million and 11.3 million respectively).
Nevertheless, the 1.6-percent drop in the number of British tourists could be a sign of things to come following the UK's exit from the European Union, which is scheduled for the end of March.
The fall in number of British tourists was compensated by a 0.7-percent increase in the number of French visitors. There were significant increases (30.2 percent and 17.3 percent) in the numbers of American and Russian tourists travelling to Spain.
Last year, foreign tourists spent a total of 89.856 billion euros (103 billion U.S. dollars), up 3.3 percent year on year from 2017. It could indicate a slight shift to more "quality" tourism interested in gastronomy and culture, rather than the beach tourism which has so long been the staple of the Spanish market.
"These numbers mean a new record for Spanish tourism and they allow Spain to maintain its position as a major tourist destination and motivate us to keep on working to consolidate," commented the Spanish Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto.