Some countries are more popular than others. The ultimate way to measure the popularity of a country and its culture is to see how many annual visitor it gets. Not surprisingly, five out of the ten most visited countries in the world are located in Europe. Get a 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 as of recent years, it has not shown to have any major effect on the tourism, so we highly expect the Western European nation to remain on top when we measure yearly visitors in countries around the world.
And of course, France is much more than just Paris. Most Paris visitors also do a trip to nearby Versailles. In the south of France, we find several interesting cities such as Nice, Marseille and Toulouse. Overall, France is an incredibly interesting country, so the high popularity is completely justified.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 82.8 million
Just south of France, the Spaniards are also enjoying a booming tourist industry. Spain receives almost 83 million visitors per year, spread out across many different destinations in the country.
Barcelona is the most visited city, 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 tourists 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 lacks just a tiny bit behind in the tourism statistics. Currently, it is the third most visited country in the world by foreigners. Most of which are coming from Canada, Mexico and Europe – but of course, the United States is a dream destination for most people around the world.
New York City is the main target. 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. Ultimately, California also adds significantly to the numbers, as Los Angeles and San Francisco have their strong cultural selling points. Many visitors also choose to see a bit of everything by renting a car and doing a road trip in 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 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 towards 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 country 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.
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 target of most visitors, due to its architecture and grand history. A bit south, Naples also attracts plenty of visitors with its world famous cuisine. Don’t forget 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. And after all the cities, we must also remember that Italy is full of amazing beaches, so it truly is a country with a good selection in 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 every year.
Among Europeans, Turkey’s many 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 large city in the world that is simultaneously located in 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 the 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. The 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 peak of the country where you’ll find cities such as Cancún and Playa del Carmen.
Of course, Mexico receives many of their visitors from other Latin American countries – it has been like that for a while. But Europeans are also opening up to the country. And as we know, a huge amount of Americans also go to Mexico, particularly Californians that are visiting Tijuana, just south of the US border in the west.
Tourist arrivals in 2018: 38.9 million
Many Europeans visit Germany quite regularly. First of all, 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 target is another European country.
But travelers from other continents are also starting to visit Germany much more than in previous years – and that is probably another strong reason behind the high amount of yearly visitors.
Highlights of the country include cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. The southern region of Bavaria is probably the most beautiful one, 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 Europeans and Americans. At the same time, it’s also a popular target for many Asian travelers. For example, Thailand receives huge amounts of visitors from Vietnam. Therefore, it is no surprise that Thailand gets a spot in the top ten of the most visited countries, just ever so slightly 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 and live the wild life for a couple of days, and then there is 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.
If you do want to visit more parts of the United Kingdom, then take a look at other English cities such as Liverpool or Manchester. 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 country: Just take a look at the country Wales or the southeastern English county of Cornwall. Of course, many people are also deeply fascinated by Scotland where you can arguably find the most beautiful natural settings anywhere in the United Kingdom.
Source: UNWTO, International Tourism Highlights, 2019 Edition