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Tunisian, Egyptian tourist industries' pain is Spain's gain

The number of overseas visitors to Spain rose 4.7 percent in January from a year earlier to 2.7 million.

The Spanish tourist industry has been an unexpected beneficiary of the revolts in the Arab world as visitors shied away from popular winter destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt and opted to go to places such as the Canary Islands instead.

According to figures released Tuesday by the Industry, Tourism and Trade Ministry, the number of overseas visitors to Spain rose 4.7 percent in January from the same month a year earlier to 2.7 million. The ministry said that represented an increase of 119,000, of which 70,000 spent their holidays in the Canary Islands, which accounted for about a third of all arrivals.

The number of visitors to Valencia in the first month of the year jumped by 20 percent. A high-speed train link between Madrid and Valencia, reducing the travel time between the capital and the Mediterranean coastal city to about an hour and a half, started operating at the end of last year.

In an interview with Spanish national broadcaster TVE, Industry Minister Miguel Sebastián acknowledged Spain had benefited from developments in the Arab world. "But that shouldn't be the object of our policy. We have a long-term policy of increasing competitiveness and promoting Spain abroad."