MADRID, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday said 2013 has been a record year for the Spanish tourist sector while addressing the inauguration of the 7th Exceltur Forum in Madrid.
In 2013, Spain broke the barrier of 60 million international tourist arrivals with 60.5 million arrivals during the year. That was 5.6 percent higher than in 2012.
The increase meant Spain has become the third most popular tourist destination in the world, overtaking China and sitting behind France and the United States.
"This data is the best in the history of Spain and the numbers speak for themselves," said Rajoy while announcing the figures.
Spain received increased numbers of visitors from virtually all around the world, with the exception of Italy, which has been suffering the effects of the ongoing economic crisis.
The number of Britons, Scandinavians and French tourists to Spain all rose during 2013, although it was the Chinese and Russian markets which showed the strongest growth.
Around 35 percent more Chinese people visited Spain in 2013 than the previous year, while 31.6 percent more Russians came to the country.
Both of these are considered to be high quality markets by the tourist sector, given that the per-capital spending of Chinese and Russian tourists is higher than visitors from other countries and regions.
Meanwhile, every region in Spain benefited from the increased numbers of visitors, with the exception of the Community of Madrid.
This shows that foreign visitors are waking up to Spain as more than a destination for sun, sea and sand and are showing more interest in sectors such as gastronomy, wine tourism, culture and in visiting historic sites.
That success had been highlighted by World Tourism Organization Secretary General Taleb Rifai during a recent interview with Xinhua.
Rifai stressed the flexibility and innovation of the Spanish tourist industry. "This is proof of how intelligent, innovative, flexible and adjustable the private section is (and) Spain is," he said.