MADRID, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists who visited Spain in 2020 fell by more than 80% to 19 million, a level not seen since 1969, official data showed on Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic devastated one of the country’s most crucial industries.
Tourist arrivals fell 85% year-on-year in December, after authorities imposed new travel restrictions to curb a new increase in COVID-19 infections.
Tourists spent 86.1% less in December than in the same month a year earlier, INE said. For 2020, tourists spent 19.7 billion euros ($23.71 billion), 78.5% less.
Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic in Europe.
While vaccinations are slowly being rolled out, it reported 29,604 new cases on Tuesday, down from recent highs of more than 40,000 and pushing the overall tally to 2.85 million.
Gripped by a third wave of infections, the death toll jumped by 724 to 59,805 people in the biggest one-day rise since April.
While tourism accounted for around 12% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, activity plunged in 2020.
Though there are no official data on how much the sector contributed in 2020, Funcas analyst Maria Jesus Fernandez forecast it was around 4% or 5% of GDP.
($1 = 0.8310 euros)
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Editing by Inti Landauro and Kim Coghill)