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Top Tourist Destination Countries


Europe continues to be the most places to visit while on vacation in the world, with half of the top 10 tourist destinations.

Europe continues to be the most places to visit while on vacation in the world, with half of the top 10 tourist destinations.

For the last three years the most popular countries for tourist destinations have remained mostly the same with very few even switching places, according to Bloomberg’s gathered data.

The top destinations were identified based on the number of tourist arrivals, which refers to the number of arrivals, not the number of people visiting the country. The data looks at international tourists, who are overnight, nonresident visitors.

In general global travel is trending upwards, according to an earlier study by the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, with international visitors arrivals in 2012 growing almost twice as fast as world real GDP.

Despite one of the largest increases in tourist arrivals from 2011 to 2012, the U.S. only claimed the second spot.

10. Malaysia

Tourist arrivals 2012: 25 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 24.7 million

Change in arrivals: 1.2%

Tourism receipts 2012: $20.3 billion

Kuala Lumpur

It’s not just tourists that look to Malaysia, though — it’s also one of the most expat-friendly countries for retirees. Most of the visitors to Kuala Lumpur, the largest city in Malaysia, are Middle Eastern.

9. Russia

Tourist arrivals 2012: 25.7 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 22.7 million

Change in arrivals: 13.2%

Tourism receipts 2012: $11.2 billion


Russia reported the largest increase in tourist arrivals from 2011 to 2012 and this is all before the country plays host to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Russia is the most heavily policed country in the world.

8. United Kingdom

Tourist arrivals 2012: 29.3 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 29.3 million

Change in arrivals: 0%

Tourism receipts 2012: $36.4 billion

Stonehenge. Photo by Gareth Wiscombe.

Although, the U.K.’s flat tourist arrivals might be indicative of what Russia can expect when it hosts the Winter Olympics as the 2012 Summer Olympics in London didn’t give the U.K. any boost in international tourist arrivals.

7. Germany

Tourist arrivals 2012: 30.4 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 28.4 million

Change in arrivals: 7%

Tourism receipts 2012: $38.1 billion


Right now Germany is celebrating 500 Years of Martin Luther until 2017 and there are four towns that truly represent his life if you’re up to seeing all of them.

6. Turkey

Tourist arrivals 2012: 35.7 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 34.7 million

Change in arrivals: 2.9%

Tourism receipts 2012: $25.7 billion

The Golden Horn in Istanbul. Photo by Selda Yildiz and Erol Gülsen.

Istanbul was also named one of the top travel destinations for 2013 by Travel + Leisure. However, the country is the second most heavily policed in the world, second only to Russia.

5. Italy

Tourist arrivals 2012: 46.4 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 46.1 million

Change in arrivals: 0.7%

Tourism receipts 2012: $41.2 billion


The country has plenty of popular hot spots to visit — Rome, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast to name just a few — but there are still undiscovered portions if you want to get away from the crowds.

3. (tied) Spain

Tourist arrivals 2012: 57.7 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 56.2 million

Change in arrivals: 2.7%

Tourism receipts 2012: $55.9 billion

Madrid. Photo by Fermín Rodríguez Fajardo.

Spain has a lot to attract visitors. For instance, in Barcelona you can view the Sagrada Familia. Construction on the basilica started in 1882 and won’t be completed until 2026. The islands are also popular destinations, but the known party islands, like Ibiza, are also petri dishes.

3. (tied) China

Tourist arrivals 2012: 57.7 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 57.6 million

Change in arrivals: 0.2%

Tourism receipts 2012: $50 billion


As China’s economic influence in the world grows, so has interest in the country for the world’s travelers. However, visitors should remember that China has the worst air pollution in the world.

2. United States

Tourist arrivals 2012: 67 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 62.7 million

Change in arrivals: 7%

Tourism receipts 2012: $126.2 billion

Central Park, New York City. Photo by David Shankbone.

The U.S. may be a top tourist destination, but it’s also home to some of the least friendly cities in the world with Newark, N.J., Oakland, Calif., New Haven, Conn., Detroit, Mich., and Atlantic City, N.J., all making the top 10, according to Conde Nast Traveler.

1. France

Tourist arrivals 2012: 83 million

Tourist arrivals 2011: 81.6 million

Change in arrivals: 1.7%

Tourism receipts 2012: $54.7 billion


Not only do tourists flock to France, but the French are one of the top spenders of international tourism, spending $37.2 billion in 2012.

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