LISBON, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal jumped around 13 percent in January-July, putting the country firmly on track for another record year for tourism, which has been a key driver of its economic recovery since a 2011-14 debt crisis.
The National Statistics Institute said on Thursday in its monthly data on the hotel sector that over 7.1 million foreign visitors stayed in Portuguese hotels through July, which helped drive total hotel revenues over 17 percent higher to 1.8 billion euros ($2.14 billion).
Portugal’s arrivals growth outpaced those in neighbouring Spain, which chalked up a 11 percent rise in the same period, according to official Spanish data.
Despite a deceleration in July from June levels, both the tourist arrivals and revenues so far this year maintained the pace of growth seen in 2016, when tourist arrivals exceeded 10 million for the first time.
August is traditionally the strongest month by far for holiday-making in Portugal, which lures foreign visitors with its beaches, historic sites and some of the lowest prices for wining and dining in western Europe.
Pop star Madonna has this month become the most illustrious of a growing number of foreign residents in Portugal, which was also named Europe’s top destination for expatriates in a survey by social network InterNations.
Hotel revenues and all travel-related revenues account for about 10 percent of Portugal’s gross domestic product. The tourism sector is also a key source of employment.
Tourism has been growing since 2011, helping the heavily indebted country overcome its economic and debt crisis. Economic growth this year is expected to accelerate to over 2 percent from 1.4 percent in 2016.
Portugal has opened dozens of new hotels in the past year and private entrepreneurs have redeveloped hundreds of apartment buildings in old parts of Lisbon and other areas to rent to tourists, helping the country’s flagging construction sector. (Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Alison Williams)