France still Number One? World’s most popular travel destinations
All eyes will be on France by the end of the year to see if it can retain its global tourism crown post-pandemic, according to new research.
And whether you have a taste for visiting the Eiffel Tower, seeing works of art at The Louvre or enjoy skiing in the French Alps, it appears the world has a continuing love affair with France.
The data, which compared countries for international visitor numbers every year until 2019, showed France was the most popular destination for all but five years in that 24 year period. America (USA) briefly led the table, overtaking France from 1996-97 and 2013-16.
But what does the future hold?
“2022 is a critical year for the tourism industry with international travel bans relaxing in many countries with the easing of the covid pandemic. Millions of people will be travelling abroad for a holiday this summer for the first time in two or three years and it will be fascinating to see which countries continue to attract the most tourists. Will France still be the most popular destination by the end of 2022, or will another country hold more appeal with so many people keen to travel abroad and explore?”
France has been ever present in the top two travel destinations since 1996, Turkey is now established in the top ten
Both America and France led the rest by some distance for the majority of the years between 1996 and 2019, except for the last couple of years with Spain taking second place ahead of America in 2018 and 2019.
Visitor figures for both America and France have regularly topped 70m – in some years doubling the total that the third most popular nation has welcomed. In the two years following the Twin Towers attacks, visitor numbers to America dropped markedly to around 60m, while France recorded around 74m – the biggest gap between the two countries during the research period.
Yet in 2018, America, then back in top spot, recorded an incredible 96m visitors in one year – the most recorded by any one country in the records.
In 2019, the top three saw France record 90m international visitors, followed by Spain, newly into second place with 83m visitors and America third with 79m visitors.
There are some other interesting trends which has seen the top six most popular destinations largely unchanged through the last two and a half decades. Italy, UK and China have joined France, America and Spain as the most sought after destinations.
In 2003, Russia briefly climbed above the UK into sixth place, but has largely fallen out of the top ten rankings in the last decade. The UK itself slipped to ninth in the top ten charts by 2019.
Canada, Poland, Germany and Mexico have all enjoyed several years making up the top ten top travel destinations, while in more recent years, Turkey has also been very popular, climbing to sixth place in 2009.
Malaysia and Thailand have also appeared in the top ten during the last five or so years, and Ukraine also made an entry on the top ten board in 2008 with 25m visitors.
Visitor numbers have also been on the increase across the board. There were 299m people travelling to the top ten destinations in 1996. That had increased to 588m by 2019. Also in 1995, just two countries recorded more than 60m visitors – this became five by 2019.
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