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Passenger traffic at Spain's airports hits record high in 2023

By AFP - Jan 15,2024 - Last updated at Jan 15,2024

Tourists arrive at the Palma airport to leave the island of Mallorca, on August 17, 2020 (AFP photo)

MADRID — Passenger traffic at Spain's airports hit a record high in 2023, official figures showed on Monday, the latest sign the key tourism sector has rebounded strongly from the pandemic.

A total of 283.2 million people travelled through the country's airports last year, a 16.2 per cent increase over 2022, state-run airport operator Aena said in a statement.

The figure was 2.9 per cent higher than in 2019 — the last full year before global travel restrictions imposed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic grounded the tourism sector. 

"These record figures in air transport are fundamental for the economic and social development of Spain. We should all congratulate ourselves for these results," Aena's chief executive officer, Maurici Lucena, said in the statement.

Madrid airport was Spain's busiest with 60 million passengers, followed by Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands and Malaga on the southern coast.

Spain is the world's second-most visited country after France and tourism is crucial for the domestic economy, making up nearly 12 per cent of gross domestic product.

International travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic brought Spain's vital tourism sector to its knees in 2020.

The industry began a gradual recovery in 2021, pausing briefly when the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant led to a temporary new round of travel restrictions.

While passenger traffic at Spain's airports in 2022 was up from the previous year, it still remained below pre-pandemic levels.

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