Some countries are more popular than others. The ultimate way to measure the popularity of a country is to see how many annual visitors it gets. Not surprisingly, five out of the ten most visited countries in the world are located in Europe. Get the full overview here.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 89.4 million
France is the most visited country in the world. Tourists from all over the world love to visit France. The country’s capital, Paris, is famous as a beautiful and romantic city. While Paris has become more unsafe in recent years, that has not led to any major effect on tourism numbers. So we strongly expect this Western European nation to remain on top of this list in the future.
And of course, France is much more than just Paris. Many Paris visitors also take a trip to nearby Versailles. And in the south of France, we find interesting cities such as Nice, Marseille and Toulouse. Not to forget the mountainous areas in the Alps and Pyrenées. Overall, France is an incredibly interesting country, so its strong popularity is completely justified!
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 82.8 million
Just like France, the Spaniards are also enjoying a booming tourism industry. Spain receives almost 83 million visitors per year, spread out across many different destinations within in the country.
Barcelona is the most visited city in Spain. But the Spanish islands – primarily Mallorca, Ibiza, and the Canaries – also attract millions every year.
And don’t forget the lively capital Madrid, sunny Málaga, or the historic pilgrimage destination, Santiago de Compostela. A visit to Spain is always a great idea, and with so many interesting cities and islands, Spain should only expect more visitors in the upcoming years.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 79.6 million
While the United States is a much larger country than France and Spain, it is just a tiny bit behind them in tourism statistics. Currently, it is the third most visited country in the world by foreigners. Most of them are coming from Canada, Mexico and Europe – but of course, the United States is a dream destination for most people around the world and it gets visitors from everywhere.
New York City is the main city of interest. However, the entire northeast coast is wildly popular, with cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Washington also attracting huge amounts of visitors. And don’t forget the state of Florida, with tourist magnets such as Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Finally, California also adds significantly to the numbers, as Los Angeles and San Francisco have strong cultural selling points. Many visitors also choose to see a bit of everything by renting a car and doing a road trip around America – something that is highly recommended.
An interesting detail: Despite ranking number three in numbers, the United States is by far the biggest earner from world tourism. A 214 billion dollar profit was estimated by UNWTO in 2018.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 62.9 million
China had almost 63 million tourist arrivals in 2018, and statistics are pointing toward an increase in 2019.
While most visitors are from other countries in Asia, China has also begun to receive increasing numbers of European and North American tourists. If the nation puts more effort into the travel industry, and if flights become cheaper, then it is not unrealistic that China can rank number one on the list within a decade or two. It should also be said that a lot of people visit China for business – not just for pleasure.
Covid closures obviously hurt the Chinese tourism industry, but perhaps it can recover in the future.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 62.1 million
Arguably the most historic country in Europe, along with Greece.
Italy has an outstanding amount of historic attractions. Rome is the main destination, due to its architecture and grand history. A bit south, Naples also attracts plenty of visitors with its world-famous cuisine. Don’t forget about Florence, the city that has been home to so many great artists, or the romantic Venice in the northeast.
If you are into fashion, Milan might be the best place to go in the entire world. It also has an incredible artistic scene.
And after mentioning all the main cities, we must also remember that Italy is full of amazing beaches. So it truly is a country with a nice variety of everything.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 45.8 million
Turkey has nice weather and a very interesting culture. Therefore, it is no surprise that over 45 million tourists are stopping by each year.
Among Europeans, Turkey’s beach resorts are seen very favorably, and the southwestern coast of the country is highly popular – especially the city of Antalya.
But Turkey is also home to some great, historic cities. We can’t mention Turkey without mentioning Istanbul – the only major city in the world that is simultaneously located on two different continents. Formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, it used to be the largest city in the world and it was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. In modern-day Istanbul, you can still see traces of the Ancient Roman and Ancient Greek cultures, and you can experience modern Turkish culture in the best way possible.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 41.4 million
It would be fair to say that Mexico is one of the most interesting countries in the world. Mexican nature is incredibly varied, and most states have something beautiful and unique about them. While Mexico City is the largest city in the country, most tourists actually go to the far eastern part of the country where you’ll find cities such as Cancún and Playa del Carmen.
Of course, Mexico receives most of its visitors from the United States and from Latin American countries – it has been like that for a while. But Europeans are also warming up to the country. For Americans, it is relatively easy to take a trip down to Mexico, so the Spanish-speaking country should definitely continue to get lots of tourists and it might just exceed 50 million per year in the future.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 38.9 million
Many Europeans visit Germany quite regularly. It’s an interesting country with easy access – German roads are great, there are many train connections in and out, and Germany has several huge airports throughout the country. It’s very normal for Europeans to take a quick vacation to Germany, or simply to pass through when the real destination is another European country. The central location in Europe definitely helps in this regard.
But travelers from other continents are also starting to visit Germany much more than in previous years – and that is probably another good reason behind the success of tourism in Germany.
Highlights of the country include cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. The southern region of Bavaria is probably the most beautiful, at least from a natural standpoint. If you ever get the chance, stop by the gorgeous and unique Neuschwanstein Castle!
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 38.3 million
Thailand is considered to be a holiday paradise by most Americans and Europeans. At the same time, it’s a popular target for many Asian travelers. For example, Thailand receives huge amounts of visitors from Vietnam. Therefore, it is no shock that Thailand gets a spot in the top ten of the most visited countries in the world, just behind Germany.
While you can argue that the gorgeous beaches are the main attractions in Thailand, we shouldn’t underestimate the many interesting Thai cities with temples and historic monuments. Of course, Bangkok is a popular city to go to and live a crazy life for a couple of days. Then there is the entrepreneur central, Chiang Mai, in the north.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 36.3 million
With 36.3 million visitors in 2018, the United Kingdom just barely gets into the top 10. It is carried by London, the most visited city in Europe, and also one of the most popular destinations in the entire world. London accounts for over half of all the visits to the United Kingdom by foreigners. The capital city is also full of nice hotels.
Brighton in the south is a hidden gem, and you can find quite a bit of varied culture within the UK which consists of four different countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Consider taking a look at the country Wales, or some of the underrated parts of England, such as the southeastern county of Cornwall where the culture is a bit different and where they even have a language of their own.
Of course, many are also fascinated by Scotland where you can arguably find the most beautiful natural settings anywhere in the United Kingdom. Edinburgh is also an insanely cool city to visit.
Source: UNWTO, International Tourism Highlights, 2019 Edition