BARCELONA, Spain, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Barcelona's Airport, El Prat, received in August the highest number of passengers, surpassing for the first time Madrid's airport Barajas, AENA reported on Tuesday.
AENA, the state-owned company in charge of operating Spanish airports, reported that El Prat, located 14 km south of Barcelona, received 3,905,840 passengers, the highest number in Spain beating Madrid's airport Barajas for the first time on a monthly basis.
The record number of passengers was mainly due to the large number of low-cost airlines that used El Prat in 2013, especially the company Vueling, which is headquartered near Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Iberia, which mainly operates in Madrid, is experiencing a restructuring process that led to a cost cutting program.
The number of international passengers of Barcelona, placed in the Mediterranean coast, had surpassed that of Madrid in June and July, mostly due to visitors from Russia and tourists traveling on cruise.
Barcelona's airport received in the first two months of the summer 2,691,097 international passengers, as opposed to the 2,532,834 passengers of Madrid, while Madrid airport lost an 11.7 percent of travelers in annual terms, from August 2012 to August 2013.
AENA director Fernando Echegaray predicted that despite monthly data, Barcelona airport will receive five million passengers less than Madrid this year.
The tourism sector is very important for Spain's economic recovery: July saw Spain break a record in the number of tourists when a total of 7,875,997 people visited the country. The most visited regions were Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, and the Balearic Islands.
Given this data, Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai said that Spain could be the third most important tourist destination in the world in terms of visitors in 2013, relegating China to the fourth place.