April 23, 2020 / 8:48 AM / a month ago

Spanish hotels see 66% visitor slump in March amid epidemic

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Punta Ballena touristic area in Magaluf during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Mallorca, Spain April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Enrique Calvo/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - The number of foreign visitors staying in Spanish hotels slumped almost 66% in March to 1.19 million as the coronavirus epidemic forced the tourism-dependent country to impose one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, data showed on Thursday.

The world’s second-most visited nation, where tourism accounts for 12% of gross domestic product, introduced a state of emergency in mid-March. Hotels were ordered to gradually shut down form March 19 until complete closure on March 26.

The National Statistics Institute said the occupancy rate nearly halved in March to 29% from 53% a year ago. The overall number staying in hotels fell 65% to 2.63 million people, leading to a cumulative drop of 22% since the start of the year.

Spain is among the world’s worst-hit countries by the new coronavirus, with a death toll of nearly 22,000 and more than 204,000 infections.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Andrei Khalip; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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