Spain has today reported record foreign visitor numbers in July, raising the prospect of a significant economic boost from the important summer tourism season.

Foreign tourist numbers rose to an unprecedented 8.3 million in July, up 5.9% from a year earlier, the tourism ministry said in a statement. 

"If the trend continues I think we will have a good August, too," Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria told Spanish radio. 

Tourism is crucial to the slowly recovering yet jobs-scarce Spanish economy, accounting for about 11% of all economic activity. 

Spain, the world's third most popular tourism destination after the US and France, has shown a gradual economic pick-up since emerging from recession in mid-2013 but still suffers from a 24% unemployment rate. 

British tourists led the influx in July followed by the French and Germans, the Spanish government said. 

The most popular destinations were in the northeastern region of Catalonia, the Balearic islands and the southern region of Andalusia. 

Holidaymakers are spending more freely, too. In the first half of 2014, foreign tourists spent €26.35 billion, up 7.8% from a year earlier, the tourism ministry said. 

Greece is also heading for record tourism numbers this year, benefiting in part from a fall in popularity of holiday destinations in unsettled North Africa.