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.
Greece - 22.0 million
Being an ancient culture (and the cradle of Western civilization) gives Greece a host of cultural and architectural sites for tourists – 22 million and double its national population in 2014 – to visit. This heavily-touristed country was an assortment of independently-ruled city-states before their unification by Alexander the Great. A major maritime power then and now, Greece draws in most of its tourists to visit the pristine beaches, islands, and coastal cities’ historical monuments.
Thailand - 24.8 million
Officially the Kingdom of Thailand, former Siam is the most popular country on the Southeast Asian backpacker trail. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand – also known as Rama IX – has been in power since 1946, making him the world’s longest-serving head of state. An Asian Tiger, Thailand rapidly developed towards the end of the 20th century largely due to manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism. Thailand’s temples and beaches are so popular with young European tourists that travel to Thailand for many European countries is now visa-free.
Austria - 25.3 million
Bringing in just over 25 million tourists in 2014, Austria is one of the most popular countries to visit in Europe. One of the most mountainous countries in the world, only a third of Austria is below 1,640 feet (500 m) above sea level. Its high level of economic development has made Austria among the top fifteen richest countries in the world according to the World Bank. For Europeans and non-Continentals alike, it’s a popular classical music and winter ski destination.
Malaysia - 27.4 million
Did you know #24 (Singapore) on our list used to be part of Malaysia but was kicked out in 1965? Modern-day Malaysia is one of the most economically-prosperous countries in the world, having achieved an average annual growth rate of 6.5% for nearly 50 years. Though its economy initially advanced due to natural resources, today Malaysia is strongly building its medical tourism, finance, and science-based industries, leading to ever-more visitors to the monarch-led country.
Hong Kong - 27.8 million
One of the major business hubs of the world, Hong Kong also has much to see for those interested in nature and culture. Holding the title of the most visited city in the world, Hong Kong is one of the world’s densest and most vertical cities. To get its citizens around, the country’s transit network is the most expansive in the world, covering 90% of its residents. Despite its density, Hongkongers have one of the highest life expectancies in the world.