Lonely Planet Writer

Spain overtakes US to become the second most-visited country in the world

Spain has overtaken the US to become the second most-visited country in the world after it welcomed an estimated 82 million visitors in 2017, up from 75.3 million visitors in 2016. While it was in third place in 2016 in the United Nations World Tourism Organization rankings, Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, confirmed the news, while speaking at a summit on migration in Rome, that his nation has enjoyed a surge in tourism in 2017. France retains the number one spot.

Spain has overtaken the US to become the second-most visited country in the world. Image: Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Although the country was affected by terrorist attacks in the Barcelona and nearby Cambrils last August, Rajoy revealed that tourism earnings for the year rose by 12%. The number of tourists was up by 8.9% from 2016, and there was also a 1.5% increase in average spending per tourist, resulting in 77,501 new jobs in 2017. The prime minister also praised the Spanish tourism sector’s efforts to become more competitive.

Spain has overtaken the US to become the second-most visited country in the world. Image: JTB Photo/UIG via Getty Images

The predictions for 2018 are very positive, and the business lobby, Alliance for Excellence in Tourism (Exceltur), is expecting a further rise of 3.3% this year. “The challenge for the tourism industry now is to ensure sustainable growth with a view to the future,” José Luis Zoreda, executive vice-president of Exceltur, said at a news conference.

Briones village, La Rioja, Spain. Image: Gonzalo Azumendi

As for the US, which held second place in 2016, the US International Trade Administration revealed that international tourism to the US fell 5% in the first quarter of 2017 and 3% in the second quarter. The United Nations World Tourism Organization rankings for 2017 are due to be released on Monday 15 January, and interest in the figures is likely to be very high around the world.