Spain expects to receive more tourists in the summer of 2023 than before the COVID-19 pandemic, after international tourist arrivals for April were 1.2% higher than in the same month in 2019, the tourism minister said on Thursday.

"The data reflects an extraordinary recovery in tourism... Everything seems to indicate that we are going to break records compared to 2019," Hector Gomez told reporters at a five-star hotel in Madrid.

The government forecasts that Spain will receive between 52.3 million and 54.8 million tourists between May and October, slightly up on the number of visitors in the same period in 2019, a record year for tourist flows.

At the start of the high season with Easter week, Spain received 7.2 million international tourists in April, according to official figures.

The minister said Spain's priority was to attract travellers from distant markets such as the United States, China, South Korea and Japan. The government has recently held several meetings with Asian airlines to increase connectivity, with some routes set to return this month, he said.

The largest increase in the flow of foreign tourists in April came from the United States, according to official data.

Half of the tourists who fill Spain's resort hotels and short-term accommodation during the summer are residents of the country.

Many were surprised by the announcement of a snap general election on July 23, in the middle of the holiday season.

"We have no data on travel cancellations... We do not anticipate that the call for elections will have any consequences for tourism," the minister added.

Spain's tourism sector accounted for 12% of its economy before the pandemic, but it ground to a halt along with international travel in mid-2020. (Reporting by Corina Pons Editing by Ros Russell)