Portugal tourism growth slows sharply in 2018, still ekes out record

LISBON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal edged up to break another record last year, but the 0.4 percent increase was a far cry from the previous year’s 12 percent surge, signalling that the tourism boom is slowing, data showed on Thursday.

The National Statistics Institute (INE), which monitors hotel stays, said total arrivals grew to 12.8 million in 2018.

Portugal’s tourism has been growing for eight years in a row, helping the country recover from a severe debt crisis and economic recession. However, some in the industry believe it is set to reverse in 2019, party due to a drop in British visitors due to Brexit.

Hotel revenues rose 6 percent last year, mainly benefiting from domestic tourism, to reach 3.6 billion euros ($4.06 billion), but that growth slowed from 16 percent a year earlier.

Holiday seekers from the UK, Portugal’s largest tourism market, stayed fewer nights in the country last year, dropping 7.3 percent. There was also a drop among German, French, Dutch and Irish visitors.

On the other hand, Portugal received more visitors from Brazil and North America, with a 20 percent increase in the number of tourists from the United States, the data showed.

The total contribution of travel and tourism to Portugal’s gross domestic product reached 17.3 percent, or 33.5 billion euros ($41.1 billion), in 2017, according to the International Tourism Association. Data for 2018 is not yet available.

$1 = 0.8864 euros Reporting by Catarina Demony and Goncalo Almeida Editing by Andrei Khalip and Kirsten Donovan