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Tourists spend less nights in EU last year

Tourists spent less nights in European Union (EU) countries in 2009 than they did in 2008, a sign of the economic crisis, the EU's statistics bureau Eurostat said on Monday.

In 2009, nearly 1.5 billion nights were spent in hotels and similar establishments in the EU, a decrease of 5.1 percent compared with 2008, after an annual drop of 0.2 percent in 2008 and a rise of 3.5 percent in 2007.

Eurostat said the decline in the number of hotel nights in the EU began in the middle of 2008 and slowed down during 2009. The number of hotel nights fell at an annual rate of 8.0 percent from January to April 2009, compared with the same period of the previous year, of 4.1 percent from May to August and of 3.6 percent from September to December.

The official figures showed the number of hotel nights spent by non-residents registered a sharper drop of 9.1 percent and by residents in their own country fell by 1.6 percent.

Among the 27 EU member states, the highest numbers of nights spent in hotels in 2009 were recorded in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Britain. These five countries accounted for more than 70 percent of the total number of hotel nights in the EU.

The number of nights spent in hotels in 2009 fell in all EU countries, except Sweden where it rose slightly by 0.1 percent. The largest decreases were recorded in Latvia and Lithuania. Both saw an annual drop of over 20 percent.