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Spain set to replace US as second most popular tourism destination

Spain is set to replace the United States as the world’s second most popular tourism destination while France has retained the top spot, the UN World Tourism Organisation has said.

It is expected that Spain will take the second position with 82 million visitors last year, UNWTO head Zurab Pololikashvili said.

Definitive figures will be published in the spring.

John Kester, head of tourism trends at the UN agency, said “everything indicates” France would retain its top spot in 2017 – a good year for the industry as the number of global tourists leapt 7% on 2016, the biggest increase in seven years.

“We do see that demand for European destinations has been very strong,” said Kester. “We also see important recovery in France,” he added, without giving further details about a country that was hard hit by extremist attacks.

In 2016, Spain welcomed 75.3 million visitors, just behind the US with 75.6 million, while France easily remained the world leader with 82.6 million visitors, according to the UNWTO.

International tourism to the US shrank during the first five months of Donald Trump’s presidency, according to the US International Trade Administration.

Arrivals fell 5% in the first quarter and 3% in the second quarter, official figures show.

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, had already announced last week that tourism numbers had soared, saying earnings in a sector that accounts for 11% of Spain’s gross domestic product rose 12% to €87bn in 2017.

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