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Ole! . . . we're all going to Spain again

SPAIN is once again the destination of choice for a growing number of Irish holidaymakers after the recent 'Arab Spring' uprisings apparently scared the public off countries such as Egypt and Tunisia.

New Spanish government figures show a sharp rise in the number of Irish visitors there in the first six months of this year.

There had been a drop in the number of Irish going to Spain in recent years as recession-hit tourists took advantage of more competitive deals offered further afield. Statistics from the Spanish Ministry of Tourism show 579,555 Irish tourists visited in the first six months of 2011 --up 13.7pc on the previous year.

Last month, 171,734 Irish travelled to Spain, up 15.1pc on June 2010. The Canaries -- Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria -- and the Balearics -- Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza -- are among the favourite destinations.

Spanish tourism minister Miguel Sebastian said the figures "confirm the positive evolution of Spanish tourism".

Antonio Bernabe of the Spanish tourist board said the figures were down to "the magnificent position Spain has as a safe destination, with magnificent infrastructure and high-quality, diverse offerings".

Meanwhile, the Irish Travel Agents Association's Tom Dawson said numbers to North Africa had dropped "because of the Arab Spring" but added: "It is picking up slightly."