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.
Italy - 48.6 million
Italy is a favorite destination for millions of tourists (48.6 million, in fact) due to its temperate climate, extensive and dramatic coastline, strong culinary heritage, and host of archaeological sites. (It has 51 World Heritage Sites, the most of any country.) Experiencing one of the most fragmented histories of any country, Italy emerged from numerous conquests and invasions over thousands of years as the state we now know just after World War II. The Italian diaspora – largely from unindustrialized southern Italy – has fueled a global dispersion of and interest in Italian culture.
China - 55.6 million
Though seven of the top ten visited cities in the world are in Asia, only one East Asian country (bar Russia) has made it onto our top 10 most visited countries list. China’s inclusion should come as no surprise. One of the original cradles of human civilization, the global powerhouse is the most populous country (1.35 billion people) on Earth. China has been cited as one of the most complex economies (for over 2,000 years) due to its cyclical history of prosperity and decline. As the world’s largest exporter (and second-largest importer), it’s no doubt China will see substantially more than 55.6 million (in 2014) tourists year-over-year in the near future.
Spain - 65 million
One of only three countries boasting both Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines, Spain brought in 65 million tourists last year. Drawing in millions of tourists from its former colonies in Latin America and its position as the major European trade hub for Latin America. Such numbers have made Spain the second-largest tourism destination in the world in terms of spending: on average, each tourist spends $1,000 per visit and tourism makes up over 5% of Spain’s GDP.
United States - 74.8 million
Thought the United States would clinch the top spot? It’s just off, coming in at number two with nearly 75 million tourists in 2014. The world’s largest economy by GDP (both nominal and real), America is also one of the world’s most multicultural countries due to hundreds of years of immigration. Despite being the second most visited country, the United States had tourists spending more than in any other country – 177.2 billion dollars in 2014 compared to 65.2 billion in number two Spain.
France - 83.7 million
Paris’ place as the fifth most visited city in the world hasn’t stopped the country of France as a whole from clinching the top spot – and by a hefty margin. Receiving almost 10 million more tourists than the U.S., France held the second-largest colonial empire in history, a major factor in her close relations with many countries and territories around the globe. Despite the 15 million who visited Paris, France holds deeper appeal for tourists in its lush wine regions, coastal resorts, and small villages dotted throughout the country, bringing in a cumulative total of 83.7 million visitors.