Industries in Depth

Chart of the day: These countries normally have the highest international tourist numbers

A tourist wearing a protective mask is seen near The Louvre as as the museum among top tourism landmarks closed their doors on Friday after France's government banned gatherings of more than 100 people to curb the spread of coronavirus COVID-19 in Paris, France March 14,2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes - RC2QJF9AHKJA

Some countries are re-opening their borders to international tourists, but it's predicted tourist numbers could fall by up to 80% in 2020. Image: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

David Elliott
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Industries in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how COVID-19 is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


  • Some countries are considering easing coronavirus lockdowns to reopen their borders.
  • International tourist numbers could fall by up to 80% in 2020, the World Tourism Organization says.
  • Pre-crisis, France was the world’s most visited country.

With lockdowns beginning to ease, many countries are starting to think about how to restart an engine vital to their economies: tourism.

Even so, international tourist numbers could fall by up to 80% in 2020, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

But, in a normal year, where are the most visited destinations?

Have you read?
Global tourists.
France saw the most tourists in 2018. Image: World Tourism Organization via the World Bank

France is the world’s number one destination for international tourists, the most recent figures from the UNWTO show. Almost 90 million people visited the country in 2018.

Spain isn’t far behind, with over 82 million visitors. The United States, China and Italy complete the top five.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

These countries are also among the hardest-hit by COVID-19, with the US, Italy, France and Spain (along with the United Kingdom and Brazil) to date recording the world’s highest number of confirmed coronavirus deaths.

Lockdowns caused havoc in these economies – as they have in many others around the globe – and countries reliant on travel and tourism have seen “particularly large” disruptions, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Of the top five most visited nations, Spain in particular will be feeling the heat in this respect – international tourists spend about $81 billion in the country annually. That’s over 16% of its total exports, while the same figure is under 10% for France and Italy.

Those numbers pale in comparison to Saint Lucia, though, where international tourism receipts make up more than 81% of total exports.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Industries in DepthHealth and Healthcare Systems
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Industry government collaboration on agritech can empower global agriculture

Abhay Pareek and Drishti Kumar

April 23, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum