Foreign tourists visiting Spain at record high in 2016

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MADRID (Reuters) - The number of visitors to Spain hit a new record in 2016 for a fourth consecutive year, the government said on Thursday, helped by security concerns in some other Mediterranean holiday destinations such as Turkey and north Africa.

Spain hosted 75.3 million people international visitors last year, up by 9.9 percent from 2015, the Minister for Energy and Tourism Alvaro Nadal told a news conference.

A popular holiday destination for decades, primarily among Europeans seeking sun and sand, Spain’s thriving tourism industry accounts for around 11 percent of gross domestic product.

The third most visited country in the world, Spain relies heavily on tourism to employ one in eight people, according to analysts Ernst and Young, with the sector fuelling an annual jobs surge over the summer months.

Tourist spending also rose to a record high of 77 billion euros last year, up 8.3 percent from 2015, the government said.

Spain hosts its annual large-scale International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR) next week, with organisers saying the boom has helped boost participation by 10 percent from last year.

Reporting by Robert Hetz; Writing by Amanda Calvo; Editing by Paul Day and Gareth Jones