* Overall numbers down 10 pct y/y vs 11.8 pct fall Jan-May
* British numbers down 11.6 pct vs 17.8 pct in Jan-May
* Consumer association highlights structural challenges
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MADRID, July 21 (Reuters) - The number of foreign visitors to Spain fell 10 percent in June versus a year ago, a slight improvement on the January-May period, figures showed on Tuesday.
Compared with the earlier five months, there was a marked slowdown in the decline in British visitor numbers, the biggest segment of an industry accounting for 11 percent of Spain’s economy.
The ministry of tourism and industry said 5.2 million foreigners arrived in June, a 10 percent fall which was in line with the government’s forecast for the summer months, versus a cumulative 11.8 percent drop for the year to the end of May.
1.5 million Britons flocked to Mediterranean resorts like Alicante, Ibiza and Malaga — 11.6 percent fewer than a year ago but a 6.2 percentage point improvement on January to May.
Britons make up 26 percent of all Spain’s visitors, while Germans account for 18 percent. Their numbers fell 10.4 percent year on year — a 1.2 point moderation versus the first five months.
June is usually the fourth most important month of the year.
Spanish tourism has taken a battering from the weak pound and a longer-term structural change in holidaymakers’ shift away from packed beach destinations.
“They must work to correct weaknesses in Spain as a tourist destination unless they want to kill the goose which lays the golden egg for the economy,” consumer association Adeces said on Tuesday, blaming rising noise levels, environmental destruction, high prices and over-saturation of the marekt.
According to preliminary figures, Spain last year lost its spot as the second-most visited destination in the world to the United States. France is the most popular holiday spot.
Following sustained criticism from the sector, the government has announced plans to spend around 1 billion euros to improve the infrastructure this year; part of one of the world’s largest economic stimulus plans in relative terms.
In the first six months of the year, foreign tourist arrivals dropped 11.4 percent to 23.6 million. (Reporting by Paul Day and Ben Harding; Editing by Stephen Nisbet)