The global tourism industry is flying high. In 2017 international tourist arrivals grew 7% – the highest increase since the end of the global economic crisis.

Just under three-quarters of all foreign travellers came from either European countries (51%) or Asia Pacific nations (24%).

So where did they go and how much money did they spend there?

Big spenders

A 2018 report by United Nations agency the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reveals the preferred destinations and spending habits of tourists.

Last year international arrivals totalled 1.32 billion – some 86 million more than in 2016 – while tourist receipts increased 5% to reach $1.34 trillion.

The report attributes the bumper travel figures to a combination of factors including strengthening economic conditions in major travel markets, the recovery of outbound demand from Brazil and Russia, the continued rise of India, and nations like France and Belgium bouncing back from security challenges.

 Receipts from tourism in the US were more than France and Spain’s totals combined.
Image: Statista

France attracted more tourists than any other nation, with the 86.9 million arrivals in 2017 spending a total of $60.7 billion.

Neighbouring Spain was in second place with 81.8 million – an 8.6% increase on the previous year and enough to push the US down to third in terms of total arrivals.

Despite suffering a 3.8% year-on-year drop in international arrivals, the US raked in $210.7 billion in tourist spending, more than France and Spain’s totals combined. The US accounted for 24% of global receipts.

Air travel was by far the most common means of transport with well over half the total number of tourists arriving by plane, followed by road travel.