MADRID (Reuters) - The number of international visitors to Spain plunged 64.3% in March from the same month a year ago as hotels and apartments emptied of guests due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain, which had recorded seven consecutive years of record tourist arrivals and ranks as the world's second most popular holiday destination, received just 2 million visitors in March, the National Statistics Office said on Wednesday.
In turn, tourist spending also collapsed 64% year-on-year to 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in March, the data showed.
Tourism is one of the most important pillars of Spain's economy, contributing around 12% of economic output and millions of jobs.
After Spain declared a state of emergency on March 14 in response to the outbreak, hotels and other tourist accommodation were shut down and borders closed as the government banned non-essential travel. Airlines also cancelled flights.
Spain's economy shrunk by 5.2%, its biggest amount on record, in the first three months of 2020 and official forecasts say it could shrink as much as 9.2% this year.
Holiday islands like the Balaeric Islands are desperate to reopen, even if in a reduced capacity, and hotels are lobbying government for solutions like allowing limited travel between Germany and Mallorca.
($1 = 0.9253 euros)
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Sonya Dowsett and Angus MacSwan)
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