Humans have been on the move for thousands of years – and in no time in history has it been easier to travel than today. Tourism is forming an increasing part of the global economy, even making up 9% of GDP and employing 1/11 people globally. Some countries are economic powerhouses bringing in millions of tourists to do business locally while others are pristine gems which draw in adventure-seekers and nature-lovers. Whether it be a country filled with thermal lakes or a tiny city-state with one of the world’s top economies, here we’ve dug up the most visited countries in the world according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) 2015 report. All numbers are reported arrivals for the year 2014. Going from only 25 million international tourists in 1950 to 1,133 million in 2014, people are traveling more than ever and for reasons from business to marathon-tourism to adventure-tourism to more. Check out which global hot spots have made it onto our list of the 25 Most Visited Countries in the World.
Mexico - 29.1 million
Mexico boasts a long history as the founder of multiple civilizations including the Olmec, Toltec, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec. Conquered by the Spanish in 1521, Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. The combination of colonial history and multiple former civilizations gives Mexican culture a great vivacity and has endowed the country with numerous important cultural sites which nearly 30 million tourists flock to each year, making it the tenth most visited country in the world.
Russian Federation - 29.8 million
Occupying over one-eighth of the Earth’s inhabitable land area, Russia is by-far the largest country on Earth. Its history has been complicated, first established by the East Slavs, conquered by the Mongols, and reunified by the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The third-largest empire in history, Russia has long-been a cultural and economic megalith, especially during the 20th century. The ninth most visited country in the world, Russia brought in almost 30 million tourists in 2014 and likely more this year since the Russian ruble has depreciated significantly.
United Kingdom - 32.6 million
Though the sun set on the British Empire many decades ago, it hasn’t stopped the proliferation of British culture around the world and the United Kingdom from making our list as the eighth most visited country in the world with 32.6 million visitors. London – the economic powerhouse of Europe – brought in half of those numbers alone. Tourists looking for thrills beyond the fashion, museums, and overall culture of London headed further afield to the rugged serenity of the Scottish Highlands, the meadows and mountains of Wales, and the tumultuous city of Belfast: home to Titanic’s shipyard.
Germany - 33 million
The second most-popular destination for migrants after the United States, Germany is also the most populous country in Europe. Coming in at #8 on our list of the most touristed countries, Germany has a compelling history spanning thousands of years. A birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, Germany boasts beautiful churches such as the ones in Cologne and Berlin and is a world leader for industry, technology, and counter-culture.
Turkey - 39.8 million
Turkey’s Istanbul – the city straddles two continents and is the largest urban area in Europe and the Middle East with over 14.4 million residents. Though over 10 million tourists visited this crossroads-of-the-world, the rest of the country drew in at least another 30 million thanks to its myriad of World Heritage Sites such as Cappadocia and Troy and its two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.