Special Report

Fastest-Growing Vacation Spots Around the World

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20. Saudi Arabia
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 774,000
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 18,049,000
> Population, 2017: 32,938,213
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 6.0%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $49,045

Saudi Arabia has depended mostly on religious pilgrimages to keep up its tourism numbers. Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam and required once in a lifetime. But easier global travel has also made other trips more frequent, too. Saudi Arabia is also trying to bring in more diverse tourists, including westerners, as part of a plan by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to attract 30 million visitors by 2030 and move away from the country’s dependence on oil. This effort has included issuing visas, which began last year for sports events and concerts, and reforms such as lifting bans on movie theaters and public concerts.

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19. Croatia
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 776,400
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 13,809,000
> Population, 2017: 4,125,700
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 38.8%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $22,670

Cites, small towns, or even under-the-radar cities have enjoyed unexpected fame from Hollywood, but rarely does a country receive marketing through a TV show. HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” however, has helped put the small European nation on the tourism map. Debuting in 2011 and scheduled to premiere its 8th season soon, the series is filmed throughout the country. Numerous tourist guides to the show’s capital, King’s Landing, exist. These scenes are mostly shot in the Old City of Dubrovnik — a UNESCO World Heritage site that sits on the Adriatic coast.

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18. Portugal
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 791,800
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 11,223,000
> Population, 2017: 10,293,718
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 20.5%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $27,937

Portugal’s favorable weather and affordability makes it an appealing Western European destination, particularly favored by the British who seek its nearby sunny beaches. Tourism has been growing in the country at a steady rate since 2011, contributing to the opening of hundreds of new hotels and thousands of renovated apartments for tourists. The record growth has become an important part of the economy and a source of jobs, with tourism revenue making up 20.5% of the GDP.

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17. Vietnam
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 799,800
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 10,013,000
> Population, 2017: 95,540,800
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 4.4%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $6,172

Vietnam’s tourism arrivals have been growing at a steady rate in recent years, with top visitors coming from China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. Spending, however, is less than in other Southeast Asian countries, such as Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia , Malaysia and Thailand. Vietnam is looking to improve those numbers, with relaxed visa policies and better infrastructure, including Ho Chi Minh’s future metro rapid transit network.

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16. Poland
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 824,200
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 17,471,000
> Population, 2017: 37,975,841
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 4.9%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $27,216

In 2016, Polish tourism got a boost as the country was host to both World Youth Day and the European Men’s Handball Championship. Still, the following year saw a 4.5% increase with 18.3 million tourists from abroad. 2017 broke another record — the average expenditures of foreign tourists equaled $476 per person, an increase of about 4% compared to 2016.