In addition to causing almost seven million deaths worldwide (so far), shutting down countless businesses of every kind, and redefining social intercourse in ways that may turn out to be permanent, the coronavirus pandemic — for obvious reasons — brought most international travel to a halt.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international travel declined by as much as 75% last year, receding to levels of 30 years ago. Today, with increased availability of vaccines and the loosening of COVID-era restrictions, people are starting to take to the airways again, and there is hope for a significant revival in travel later this year. (Look at these 50 ways air travel has changed over the last 100 years.)
Airlines are resuming international flights and hiring hundreds of pilots. Countries are developing vaccine certification programs to help encourage and streamline the admission process. However, according to the UNWTO, “a return to 2019 levels in terms of international arrivals could take 2½ to 4 years.”
What were those 2019 levels? 24/7 Tempo looked at international departure statistics for some 168 countries worldwide to learn which nation’s citizens traveled beyond its borders the most. All but four of the top 27 are European, with tiny Luxembourg (population 613,894) sending the most people abroad. (These are the world’s busiest air routes right now.)
Note that the rankings are on a per capita basis, so countries with a considerably higher total number of departures — like the U.S. — aren’t included, as their populations are large enough to keep the per capita numbers low.
To identify the most traveled countries before the pandemic, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the index calculated by Nomad Capitalists, a tax and immigration consultancy company, that tracks total international departures adjusted to the population per capita. 2019 GDP per capita in current U.S. dollars comes from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators.