International tourism

International tourism: the most popular countries

In 2018, 1.44 billion international tourists traveled to other countries worldwide. The U.S. also enjoyed a handsome 79.75 million foreign visitors, resulting in around $256.15 billion in revenue and 3rd place in the global rankings.

The top place was occupied by France with 89.32 million tourists.
The analysis presented here is based on 2018 data from the World Tourism Organization and lists the most popular 100 countries. Both the number of tourists and the revenue apply to international travel, i.e. they do not include domestic travelers. A tourist in this context is any guest who spent at least one night in the country.

The most popular travel countries

It is striking that tourism is very limited in large parts of Africa and even in South America, which is so culturally interesting. On the other hand, many European countries are visited quite often by foreigners, which is mainly due to their geographical proximity to other countries. The lower the travel costs, the more attractive the destinations become, especially for surrounding industrialized nations.

A closer look at the figures also reveals that the USA (ranked 3rd), in view of its size, was only able to attract comparatively moderate numbers of tourists, but had considerable revenues. An amount of $3,212 was recorded here per traveler. This is a profit that was otherwise higher only in 3 countries. Australia came in at even $5,119 per guest.

Rank CountryTourists
(in million)
Receipts
(in billion $)
Receipts
per tourist
Percentage
of GDP
1France89.373.13 $819 $2.7 %
2Spain82.881.25 $982 $5.8 %
3United States79.7256.15 $3,212 $1.2 %
4China62.940.39 $642 $0.3 %
5Italy61.651.60 $838 $2.6 %
6Turkey45.837.14 $811 $4.9 %
7Mexico41.323.80 $576 $1.9 %
8Germany38.960.26 $1,550 $1.6 %
9Thailand38.265.24 $1,709 $12.0 %
10United Kingdom36.348.52 $1,336 $1.7 %
11Japan31.245.28 $1,452 $0.9 %
12Austria30.825.41 $825 $5.7 %
13Greece30.121.59 $717 $10.3 %
14Hong Kong29.341.87 $1,431 $11.4 %
15Malaysia25.821.77 $843 $6.0 %
16Russia24.618.67 $760 $1.1 %
17United Arab Emirates21.321.39 $1,005 $5.1 %
18Canada21.121.98 $1,040 $1.3 %
19Poland19.615.75 $803 $2.6 %
20Netherlands18.825.85 $1,376 $2.8 %
21Macao18.540.36 $2,182 $74.9 %
22Hungary17.69.60 $547 $5.9 %
23India17.429.14 $1,673 $1.0 %
24Croatia16.612.08 $725 $19.9 %
25Portugal16.224.11 $1,489 $10.1 %
26Indonesia15.815.60 $987 $1.4 %
27Vietnam15.510.08 $650 $3.8 %
28South Korea15.319.86 $1,294 $1.2 %
29Saudi Arabia15.316.98 $1,107 $2.1 %
30Singapore14.720.42 $1,391 $5.5 %
31Ukraine14.12.27 $161 $1.5 %
32Denmark12.79.10 $714 $2.6 %
33Morocco12.39.52 $775 $8.0 %
34Bahrain12.03.83 $318 $9.9 %
35Romania11.73.26 $278 $1.3 %
36Belarus11.51.22 $106 $1.9 %
37Egypt11.212.70 $1,135 $4.2 %
38Ireland10.914.66 $1,342 $3.8 %
39Czechia10.68.29 $781 $3.3 %
40South Africa10.59.79 $935 $2.8 %
41Switzerland10.420.28 $1,957 $2.9 %
42Bulgaria9.35.07 $547 $7.4 %
43Australia9.247.33 $5,119 $3.4 %
44Belgium9.110.38 $1,138 $1.9 %
45Kazakhstan8.82.65 $302 $1.5 %
46Kuwait8.50.92 $108 $0.7 %
47Tunisia8.32.32 $280 $6.0 %
48Sweden7.414.93 $2,006 $2.8 %
49Iran7.34.63 $635 $1.0 %
50Philippines7.29.73 $1,357 $2.6 %
51Argentina6.96.00 $864 $1.3 %
52Brazil6.66.32 $955 $0.3 %
53Dominican Republic6.67.56 $1,151 $8.5 %
54Cambodia6.24.83 $779 $17.8 %
55Chile5.73.97 $694 $1.4 %
56Norway5.77.10 $1,248 $1.8 %
57Uzbekistan5.31.31 $246 $2.3 %
58Albania5.32.31 $432 $15.1 %
59Georgia4.83.52 $740 $20.1 %
60Cuba4.72.97 $634 $3.0 %
61Slovenia4.43.38 $763 $6.2 %
62Peru4.44.89 $1,107 $2.2 %
63Jordan4.26.22 $1,499 $14.0 %
64Israel4.18.07 $1,959 $2.0 %
65Cyprus3.93.45 $876 $13.8 %
66Colombia3.96.62 $1,695 $2.0 %
67Laos3.80.76 $201 $4.2 %
68New Zealand3.710.96 $2,974 $5.3 %
69Burma3.61.67 $470 $2.2 %
70Uruguay3.52.44 $703 $4.4 %
71Estonia3.22.33 $721 $7.4 %
72Finland3.25.66 $1,757 $2.1 %
73Puerto Rico3.13.28 $1,070 $3.1 %
74Costa Rica3.04.00 $1,324 $6.5 %
75Lithuania2.81.42 $502 $2.6 %
76Mozambique2.70.33 $121 $2.2 %
77Algeria2.70.17 $65 $0.1 %
78Azerbaijan2.62.83 $1,075 $5.9 %
79Malta2.61.85 $710 $12.3 %
80Zimbabwe2.60.16 $61 $0.7 %
81Ecuador2.51.88 $741 $1.7 %
82Jamaica2.53.10 $1,253 $18.8 %
83Iceland2.33.13 $1,335 $12.9 %
84Sri Lanka2.35.61 $2,403 $6.7 %
85Oman2.32.98 $1,293 $3.9 %
86Slovakia2.33.32 $1,471 $3.2 %
87Montenegro2.11.22 $589 $22.1 %
88Ivory Coast2.00.51 $259 $0.9 %
89Lebanon2.08.69 $4,427 $16.7 %
90Latvia1.91.06 $543 $3.1 %
91Qatar1.815.24 $8,376 $8.7 %
92Panama1.85.62 $3,146 $8.4 %
93Guatemala1.81.55 $872 $2.0 %
94Serbia1.71.92 $1,123 $3.7 %
95El Salvador1.71.37 $817 $5.1 %
96Armenia1.71.24 $749 $9.0 %
97Bahamas1.63.38 $2,072 $24.9 %
98Maldives1.53.05 $2,058 $54.1 %
99Mauritius1.42.16 $1,545 $15.4 %
100Tanzania1.42.47 $1,789 $3.9 %

China is the travel world champion

With a staggering 149,720,000 trips abroad in 2018, China was in first place. Each vacationer spent an average of $1,852. Germany follows in second place with an equally impressive 108,542,000 stays abroad and spending of $960 per capita. Not quite as surprising, but still remarkable, the USA followed in third place with 92,564,000 trips. Each US American spent an average of 2,015 dollars. Considering that China and the U.S. have a considerably larger population, some European countries like Germany are very well in the running. Incidentally, similar to Europeans, most Americans stay in their own continent during their vacation. The top destinations are within the vast and both scenically and climatically varied USA. Only then come destinations in Mexico and Canada.

Internationally, the proportion of Asian guests has been increasing noticeably for several years. Above all, Chinese, South Koreans and Taiwanese can be seen in more and more countries, whereby traditionally significantly more countries are visited during a vacation than is usual for Germans. Since in the vast majority of cases the vacation is not longer, the time spent at individual vacation spots is shortened. At the same time, frequent changes of location also increase the average cost per person.

Booming tourism

Development of global tourism

Between 1995 and 2018, international tourism developed almost steadily upwards. In these 23 years alone, the number of visitors increased by 175.2 percent. Only at the time of the economic crisis in 2008 and the Covid19 pandemic in 2020 were there notable drops. The graph shows the worldwide development of visitor numbers in millions of tourists.

A look at the costs

By their very nature, the revenues and expenditures per tourist can only reflect what is statistically ascertainable. If a vacationer travels across Europe in a motor home and always pays cash in Euros, these expenses can hardly be measured. Such a traveler is not registered anywhere and the expenses can also only be attributed to a country of origin if credit card payments or cash withdrawals permit.

Travel expenses also include transfer prices, such as for flights. However, this only applies to flights whose airlines are also based in the destination country. Countries with many of their own airlines and good international connections therefore generate higher revenues than smaller countries. The fact that Bulgaria, for example, only earns $547 per traveler is also due to the fact that the country, with only one airline of its own and relatively small, does not generate significant passenger numbers. In many European countries, revenues are lower simply because travel is often by car or train.