Wondering which countries are the most popular travel destinations? Each year, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) compiles a list of the most visited countries according to the number of international tourist arrivals for every country. In the last three years, European destinations like France, Spain and Italy have been leading the list, but China surpassed Spain and Italy this time, coming in at third place after France and the United States. It’s quite surprising to find Malaysia coming in as another Asian contender, while Thailand is nowhere to be found in the top 10. A pity none of the African and Middle Eastern countries have made it to the list. Here’s a look at the top 10 list compiled in 2010 (2011 is yet to be published).
1. France: 76.8 million visitors
With numerous world-known monuments and museums, it’s really no surprise that France has topped the charts over and over again. Whether you’re traveling to visit the famous Musée du Louvre or Eiffel Tower in Paris, or going wine-tasting in Bordeaux and castle-hopping in the Loire Valley, France has plenty to offer for the curious traveler. As a European country, France is also relatively compact – it’s easy to travel from one region to the next on budget car rentals and go from city sight-seeing to relaxing on the beach within a short time frame.
Flickr photo by Frank Müller
2. United States: 59.7 million visitors
Stretching from California in the West to New York in the East, the United States of America covers an area of 3.79million square miles – that’s a whole lot of country to explore. The U.S. is as diverse as it is huge: with expansive national parks and vibrant cities visited by foreign tourists, local visitors and business travelers alike. We think New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and San Francisco are the most visited cities in the U.S., with their array of attractions and popularity. What do you think?
3. China: 55.7 million visitors
In recent years, the number of visitors to China has skyrocketed, largely due to an increase in global business dealings and cultural exchange. A large number of companies has moved their production chains to China, so have banks and big-name franchise stores. At the same time, China is becoming more and more popular as a travel destination, with its ancient cities, historical sites and good food veering for the tourist limelight.
4. Spain: 52.7 million visitors
As a mainstay in tourism, Spain has always attracted hordes of European tourists to its shores. In summer, Costa del Sol and many of its islands are often flooded with German, British and Dutch tourists. But the country’s tourist board has also been branching out to the international market, drawing in global visitors to the cultural capital of Barcelona and traditional towns in Andalusia and Castilla la Mancha. Whatever the case, Spain makes for an excellent travel destination with its world-class cuisine, centuries-old history and vibrant, characteristic cities – whether you’re a backpacker or luxury traveler.
5. Italy: 43.6 million visitors
From the romantic canals of Venice to the history-rich piazzas of Rome and pebbled beaches in the Amalfi Coast, Italy’s attractions are bountiful. The country provides a diverse travel experience – no wonder it’s a dream destination for many. Italy’s one of our favorite countries in the world, and it’s obvious we’re not the only ones who have fallen for its charms. As far as tourism trends go, we predict that Italy’s tourism numbers will only keep rising.
6. United Kingdom: 28.1 million visitors
Although its numbers are a far cry to that of Italy, the UK also has quite a lot to offer on its shores – such as the old-world charm of England, the dramatic landscapes of Scotland and the lesser known coastline of Wales. Let’s not forget that London is a miniature world, where global cultures converge and where headquarters of almost every international company is located.
7. Turkey: 27 million visitors
Spanning across Europe and Asia, Turkey is famed for its distinctive cultures, age-old traditions and varied landscapes – ranging from the snow-peaked mountains of Nemrut to the unique valleys of Cappadocia. Historically, Turkey was home to distinctive civilizations through the centuries, with impressive Roman ruins and Ottoman architecture to bear witness. Most importantly, Istanbul is the crowd-puller, attracting business travelers and tourists alike with its extreme characteristics: with futuristic skyscrapers alongside traditional mosques and boutique hotels next to street food stands.
8. Germany: 26.9 million visitors
On UNWTO’s ranking of world tourism expenditure, Germany comes in at number one – it looks like all these money spent on boosting its tourism is well worth it. Many of Germany’s major cities are tourist magnets especially in festive season – drawing in visitors with their Christmas markets, beer festivals and summer events. Munich’s Oktoberfest itself accounts for a big percentage of the annual visitors, while Berlin and Frankfurt attract mainly European city lovers.
9. Malaysia: 24.6 million visitors
With a booming economy and an expanding trading industry, Malaysia is seeing a sharp increase in worldwide tourists and business travelers. The biggest draw of Malaysia is that once you’re done with business in the explosive capital city of Kuala Lumpur, you can easily hop over to the traditional seafront hotels in Penang or the secluded beaches of Terengganu or the jungles of Borneo and experience a very different side to the country.
10. Mexico: 22.4 million visitors
The miles and miles of turquoise beaches along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula lure hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Riviera Maya, having been developed specifically for touristic purposes, is a holiday paradise. But beyond that, Mexico definitely has plenty of reasons to be on this list – its Mayan historical sites, colonial cities, and colorful festivals attract a fair amount of curious travelers despite its slightly tainted reputation.