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Travel

Portugal books tourism record

Brits again topped the list of foreign visitors to the country, followed by Germans, Spaniards and French. Portugal unveiled plans for a second international airport for Lisbon to cope with record numbers of visitors.

Portugal welcomed 11.4 million foreign tourists last year, a sixth straight record year as security fears lure visitors away from rival sunshine destinations in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt have notably been hit by attacks in recent years which have rattled tourists.

A record number of foreign tourists stayed in Portuguese hotels last year, official data showed Wednesday, boosting the economy after a punishing international bailout. Hotel revenues rose by more than 15.1 percent to 2.9 billion euros ($3.1 billion), outpacing the growth in tourist arrivals as hotels were able to increase prices thanks to strong demand. Brits again topped the list of foreign visitors to the country, followed by Germans, Spaniards and French.

Traumstrände Europa Portugal Castelo (picture-alliance/ZB/J. Kalaene)

The Algarve is Portugal’s most popular vacation destination

The national statistics institute INE figures do not include the number of foreign visitors who stayed in private homes rented through home-sharing sites like Airbnb which has soared in popularity in Portugal in recent years. Airbnb says it housed 912,000 visitors in Portugal in 2015.

Lisbon to get second airport

Infrastructure Minister Pedro Marques said the little-used Montijo military air base would be modified for commercial traffic because the capital's sole international airport was nearing capacity. The new airport should be operational by 2021, easing pressure on Humberto Delgado airport. 

Portugal's main gateway which welcomed a record 22.4 million passengers last year, 11.7 percent up on 2015. "The year 2016 was the best year ever for tourism in Portugal and 2017 will be even better," Marques told.

Work on the new Lisbon airport, which will focus on low-cost and medium-haul flights, is expected to begin in 2019. Passengers arriving at the airport in Montijo will have to travel 13 kilometres (8 miles) by ferry or 30 kilometres (20 miles) by road into Lisbon.

Portugal - Ascensor da Bica in Lissabon (picture alliance / J. Woitas)

A nostalgic tour in Lisbon with the "Ascensor da Bica"

Portugal, a nation of 10.4 million people, depends heavily on tourism, which accounts for around 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The rise in tourist arrivals has helped the Atlantic coastal country overcome its economic and debt crisis and helped slash the country's jobless rate..

isi/ch (afp)