Which travel destinations will be world’s most popular in 2022?

Have you ever wondered what foreign destinations the travelers are most likely to choose, either for business or leisure?

The data, which compared countries for international visitor numbers every year from 1996 until 2019, shows that France was the most popular destination for all but five years in that 24-year period. The United States of America briefly topped the chart twice, overtaking France from 1996-97 and 2013-16.

But what does the future hold?

This year, all eyes will be on France again to see if it can retain its global tourism crown post-pandemic.

Whether the travelers 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 an unabating love affair with France.

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?

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 traveling 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.

Both the USA 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 the United States in 2018 and 2019.

Visitor figures for both the USA and France have regularly topped 70 million – 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 US dropped markedly to around 60m, while France recorded around 74 million – the biggest gap between the two countries during the research period.

Yet in 2018, the USA, then back in top spot, recorded an incredible 96 million visitors in one year – the most recorded by any one country in the records.

In 2019, the top three saw France record 90 million international visitors, followed by Spain, newly into second place with 83 million visitors and the United States third with 79 million 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, the USA 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 25 million visitors.

Visitor numbers have also been on the increase across the board. There were 299 million people traveling to the top ten destinations in 1996. That had increased to 588 million by 2019. Also in 1995, just two countries recorded more than 60 million visitors – this became five by 2019.

Country by top ten visitors in 1996Visitors in 1996Country by top ten visitors in 2019Visitors in 2019America62,874,259France90,645,444France61,537,823Spain83,624,795Spain33,640,656America79,850,736Italy32,251,166China79,757,366UK22,490,753Italy63,000,000China21,765,847Turkey46,396,845Mexico20,972,802Mexico43,078,491Poland19,338,658Thailand39,419,171Canada17,156,487UK37,485,497Austria17,120,366Austria29,460,000

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