The Most Tourist-Filled Countries In The World Aren't What You'd Expect (Vatican City, Anyone?)
When you think of tourists, your mind probably wanders to visions of Americans in fanny packs trying to decipher a map of the French Metro. Selfie sticks and peace signs are definitely involved. Well, you might be surprised to learn that the United States, the UK, and wherever you spent your semester abroad aren't even close to the top of the list when it comes to the most tourist-filled countries in the world. Good news? Bad news? You be the judge!
FiveThirtyEight recently calculated "The Most Touristy Countries" by comparing population size with average daily tourist traffic. The results? Vatican City comes in first, with a whopping 83.6 tourist percentage. (More shocking: 869 people live in Vatican City? I thought it was just the Pope and a couple of statues.) Rounding out the top five are Andorra, Palau, Bahrain, and the Bahamas.
In some ways, it makes a lot of sense. The smaller a country's overall population, the easier it is to be overrun with tourists. Furthermore, in the cases of such countries, being overrun by tourists isn't necessarily a bad thing. A tourism-centric economy generates what is known as the "Multiplier Effect." meaning that tourism helps boost industry both directly and indirectly through hotels, entertainment, and all related offshoots.
In contrast, the countries we tend to label as tourist destinations — places like England, France, and Italy — actually have startlingly small tourist numbers relative to their total populations. Among the top 25 countries as ranked by GDP, Spain takes the top spot for tourism — but with a mere 2.23 percent. France, the Netherlands, Canada, and Italy make up the rest of the top five, with tourist percentages ranging from 1.97 percent to 1.30 percent. You can check out the complete statistics here.
In the scheme of the global economy, this is definitely food for thought. Needless to say, it's a shocking departure from the received wisdom about the most "touristy" countries. It's easy to think that these major countries draw boundless tourism upon which to bolster their economies. I mean, the line for the Louvre definitely felt longer than 1.97 percent of the population, am I right? However, these statistics reveal that the reality is much different.
It's also worth noting the countries at the bottom of this list: places like South Africa, Japan, China, and India. If you need inspiration for your next getaway, look no further. All are comprised of less than 0.4 percent tourist populations. But who doesn't daydream of exploring the Forbidden City or shopping the insanely stylish Johannesburg? Let's pack our bags now!