Special Report

Fastest-Growing Vacation Spots Around the World

Source: Fabylous / Getty Images

5. Mexico
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 2,335,200
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 35,079,000
> Population, 2017: 129,163,276
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 5.2%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $17,336

Mexico’s tourism industry continues to boom despite concerns over violence and crime, with record levels of visitors. The country was projected to attract 40 million tourists by the end of 2018, but certain hotspots, including Cancun and Acapulco, have been damaged by violent incidents. U.S. airline carriers this summer reportedly reduced flights to the country, citing decreased demand, but the actual cause for the decrease was not clear. The U.S. has consistently been Mexico’s largest market for foreign visitors.

Source: Ultima_Gaina / Getty Images

4. United States
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 2,557,400
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 75,608,000
> Population, 2017: 325,719,178
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 11.1%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $54,225

The United States is known for its strong tourism industry, and this was reflected in an annual average increase in tourist arrivals from 2011 to 2016 of 2.5 million. But despite this strong number, that growth is no longer as stable is it once was. International arrivals to the United States were down 4% in the first three quarters of 2017, while international tourism arrivals worldwide in 2017 were up 7%, according to the the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Reports have predicted more drops and put the blame on President Trump’s policies and rhetoric.

Source: saiko3p / Getty Images

3. Thailand
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 2,660,000
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 32,530,000
> Population, 2017: 69,037,513
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 18.6%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $16,278

This popular tourist destination continues to gain popularity at a booming rate. International tourist arrivals rose 8.8% in 2017 to a record 35.38 million. Chinese visitors were the biggest contributors both by numbers and spending, but Thailand is looking to attract more visitors from the Middle East with travel safety initiatives, especially for women, families and medical tourists. Tourists, who come mainly from from the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Oman, tend to be larger spenders and visit during Thailand’s low season.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

2. Japan
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 3,564,200
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 24,040,000
> Population, 2017: 126,785,797
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 4.1%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $39,002

Benefitting from worldwide tourism trends, such as cheaper flights and the rise of China’s middle class, Japan has seen a rapid increase in tourists, only rivaled by Spain. The annual average change of tourist arrivals — 3.5 million — is reflected in the nation’s pursuit of Chinese tourists. Following a dip due to a diplomatic spat over collisions in East China Sea, there was a marketing push starting in 2013 to bring the high-spending travellers back. It worked, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Chinese tourists continue to be the top visitors, and in 2016 Japan loosened visa requirements for Chinese citizens as part of its plan to attract 40 million foreign tourists every year by 2020.

Source: Gatsi / Getty Images

1. Spain
> Annual average change in tourists arrivals, 2011-2016: 3,827,600
> Number of arrivals, 2016: 75,315,000
> Population, 2017: 46,572,028
> Tourism revenue, % of GDP, 2016: 14.9%
> GDP per capita, 2017: $34,272

Spain may be a top world destination, but most of its visitors are actually from Western Europe, including the U.K., France, and Germany. Fears over terrorism from other destinations, such as North Africa and Turkey, have caused Europeans to flock to western hotspots like Spain. From overseas, Americans are the leading foreign tourists. As Spain’s profile rises along with global destination, it has not only taken over the United States as a top tourist destination, it could one day rival world tourism leader France.