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Spain backs US$1.42b plan for tourism

THE Spanish government has approved a 1-billion-euro (US$1.42 billion) aid plan to boost the country's key tourism sector through the economic recession.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said last Friday that the plan included a 500-million-euro credit package to help companies renovate and modernize installations along environmentally sustainable lines.

"We see it as an important sector for the present but also a major sector for Spain's future," said Zapatero, adding that it was a priority for the government. Zapatero said tourism represented 11 percent of Spain's economy and employed some 2 million people.

Spain is consistently ranked among the world's top three tourist destinations along with France and the United States.

The prime minister was speaking last Friday following a special Cabinet meeting focusing on tourism, which was held on the island of Mallorca, a popular European holiday spot.

Under the plan, 170 million euros will be assigned to refurbishing existing hotels and building new ones for the state-run Parador hotel chain. Many are housed in historic buildings, such as Moorish castles or former palaces.

Under the project, the government said it will study ways to promote rural tourism inland as opposed to the traditional sun and beach sector.


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