The World’s Winners on the International Travel Stage
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has just published its annual report on international travel last year and according to the statistics, over one billion people crossed an international border in 2013, over half of which travelled by air and in a leisure, recreation and holiday capacity. Asia and the Pacifics recorded the biggest increase in international arrivals, up 6% on the previous year, with European and African visitors both up by 5%. So where did all these people go? Here’s a look at the results…
Taking the top spot in 2013 once again was France, thanks to its diverse landscapes and multitude of charms. Paris’ Eiffel Tower reigns supreme as the all-time most visited attraction in France, with La Cité in Carcassonne ranking second in France’s most popular touristic landmarks.
In second place was the USA, with Spain climbing above China to achieve the bronze medal position, up over 5% in visitors compared with the previous year. Below China came Italy, Turkey and Germany, with the UK coming in at a surprising 8th place, despite a 6% increase in visitor numbers compared with 2012. Russia and Thailand took 9th and 10th place respectively.
With seven (if you include Russia) out of the 10 spots going to European countries, it’s no understatement to suggest that the towns and cities of Europe are amongst the most attractive in the world for both the domestic and foreign traveller, with an increase of 29 million additional visitors to the continent than 2012, a total of 563 million. And whilst the big European hitters top the table in terms of most visited, in fact the highest recorded growth was in Central and Eastern Europe with 7% more arrivals in 2013. Indeed, Georgia and Belarus both saw their visitor numbers up by 15%, Armenia’s international arrivals rose by 14%, Kazakhstan by 11% and Poland and the Ukraine by 7%.
In Southern and Mediterranean Europe, Spain led the charge with 11 million more international arrivals, whilst Greece welcomed an additional 16% more visitors compared to the previous year, a sign that confidence and economic stability is returning to this lovely country. Portugal also witnessed an 8% growth in visitor numbers, whilst Turkey and Croatia both saw their international arrivals grow by 6%.
Northern Europe saw a 6% increase overall in its international tourism numbers, with Iceland in particular skyrocketing by a massive 20%, whilst Norway and the UK saw a healthy 8% and 6% rise respectively. And finally in Western Europe, The Netherlands and Switzerland enjoyed a 4% increase in visitor numbers, Germany’s grew by 4%, Austria’s by 3% and Belgium’s by 1%.
All in all, a pretty impressive European performance and proof enough (if any were needed), that the myriad cultural and historical treasures of Europe’s towns and cities continue to attract the international masses, desperate to discover Europe’s charms. City break to Europe, anyone?!