The kind of welcome tourists receive in a foreign country can make or break a trip. Nobody wants to spend money and time traveling halfway around the world only to encounter difficulties once there. Of course, there are nice and rude people everywhere, and people’s attitudes are not the only factors that make a country tourist friendly.
The World Economic Forum rates countries all over the world for travel and tourism competitiveness taking into account many factors, including tourism service infrastructure. To identify the most tourism-friendly countries in the world, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the WEF tourism service infrastructure criteria, which includes number of hotels, the quality of tourism, and entertainment options. The nations on the list are not necessarily among the most visited countries in the world.
Taking vacations is not just a fun activity, it’s also good for your health. Research consistently shows that taking a yearly vacation can reduce the risk of heart attack and even death.
Europe dominates the list of the most tourism-friendly countries in the world with 12 of the top 15 on the Old Continent. The United States did very well, though. It has the most travel and tourism competitive economy in the Americas and ranks third globally in the tourist service infrastructure category.
Overall, 5.3 million more Americans traveled outside the United States in 2018 than in 2017. In 2018, nearly 41.8 million Americans traveled overseas, an increase of 9.0% since 2017. While they don’t need a visa to travel for a short period of time to many countries, Americans can’t go to these 50 countries without one.
To identify the most tourist-friendly countries in the world, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the World Economic Forum’s latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. It ranked 136 countries on 14 pillars, one of which is Tourist Service Infrastructure. This category, which demonstrates a country’s ability to handle well a large number of tourists includes the number of hotels rooms per capita, rental car companies, and ATMs per adult. It also considers the quality of infrastructure, which takes into account hotels, resorts, and entertainment facilities. The following list represents the 15 countries ranked the highest in the Tourist Service Infrastructure category.
With more than 28 million international tourists a year, Austria has a booming tourism industry. Vienna, the capital, as well as Tyrol, a state in the Alps, are among the most popular destinations in Austria. Vienna is known for its history and elegance, while Tyrol is famous for its winter sports opportunities. Salzburg, which some Americans may associate with “The Sound of Music” film is also worth a trip. Visitors can go on a tour around all the movie’s filming locations in the area. It’s easy to understand why Austria is one of the most visited countries in the world.
Barcelona, Ibiza, Madrid, Seville Cathedral, the Alhambra, Lionel Messi (who is actually from Argentina), and Valencia … the bucket list of things to see and activities to do in this Iberian Peninsula country can be very long. Spain welcomes over 75 million visitors a year. Some of them also come to see the La Rioja wine region. After all, no other country has more vineyards than Spain. Feel like you want to move there yet? Here is another incentive — Spain is among the countries where people live the longest.
3. United States
More than 76 million international tourists visit the United States every year. While fewer people from Mexico and the Middle East visit, the decline is offset by many more people coming in from South Korea, Brazil, and Ireland, according to the National Travel & Tourism Office. A major share of tourists visiting the U.S. continue to come from Canada. The most popular destinations, according to TripAdvisor, are New York City, Maui and Oahu in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Orlando (which has many theme parks, including Disney), and San Diego. If tourists take a road trip, they might could also see the most beautiful roadside attractions in the country.
From historic cities and rich culture, the Harry Potter bookshop and, of course, good wine, everyone seems to be going to Portugal these days. And let’s not forget the Azores, the country’s autonomous region of nine islands in the mid-Atlantic. It is often referred to as Europe’s answer to Hawaii. 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. Portugal is now among the fastest-growing vacation spots around the world.
This small European nation has a lot to offer tourists — including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a scenic Adriatic coast. The country’s role as a major “Game of Thrones” filming location has boosted the number of visitors to Croatia and its travel profile. Tourists can also get a lot of bang for their buck there. The country is in the European Union but not in the Eurozone and still uses the kuna as its national currency. A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costs about $30. That’s better than what you’d pay in many U.S. states. To compare, take a look at the value of a dollar in every state.
Some of the most visited places in Switzerland are the Matterhorn (possibly the most photographed mountain in the world), the four-centuries old Chillion Castle, the Jungfrau region, which is a wonderland in the winter, and, of course, Lake Geneva.
Switzerland remains one of the most attractive countries to tourists largely thanks to its high safety and security standards. Its tourism service infrastructure is very well developed. But one area that needs improvement, according to the World Economic Forum, is the strict visa policy. While American tourists can stay in Switzerland without a visa for up to 90 days, there are at least 50 countries Americans can’t visit without permission.
7. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom gets more than 34 million visitors every year. The WEF credits the country with significantly improving its tourism infrastructure as well as its price competitiveness. The unknown consequences of Brexit, which is due to take effect at the end of October, deal or no deal, are looming. The WEF has already pointed out that tourism is threatened by the country’s declining international openness. One part of the U.K., however, is already sick and tired of tourists.
Tourism in Australia is growing. The country welcomes 9.2 million international tourists in 2018, a 5.0% increase from the previous year. About 63.0% of the tourists are returning visitors. American tourists visiting Australia spend about $3.8 billion a year. Still, Australia is one country where Americans can’t travel to without a visa even for a day.
Germany has remained in third place globally in the WEF’s overall Travel and Tourism competitiveness index. The country’s unique cultural resource and business travel, combined with a well-developed tourist service infrastructure are major reasons for its high rank. And while the Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the Cologne Cathedral, the Black Forest in southwestern Germany, the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, and, of course, the Rhine Valley are major attractions, the country is not heavily reliant on tourism due to its strong and diversified economy. After all, it’s one of the most productive countries in the world.
Canada, one of the least crowded countries in the world, welcomed more than 20 million visitors in 2018. In March alone, 2.7 million travelers entered Canada from abroad, a 3.7% increase from February. The majority of tourists are from the United States. Their Northern neighbors enjoy a reputation as one of the world’s friendliest nations. The WEF credits Canada with having a very efficient air transport, high level of security, and good tourism sector infrastructure. Some of the best places to visit, according to U.S. News & World report, are Jasper and Banff national parks, Niagara Falls near Toronto, Victoria and Vancouver Island, and in the French province of Quebec, Montreal and Quebec city.
The Colosseum, Pompeii, Venice Canals, Lake Como, Amalfi Coast, good food and wine — the riches of Italy are endless. The country’s excellent travel and tourism standing is largely driven by its exceptional culture, according to the WEF. The world-class tourism infrastructure continues to attract international tourists. They attract so many tourists that some cities, like Venice, can barely handle the influx and are sick and tired of tourists.
Luxembourg, a small landlocked nation in Western Europe, has a population of just over 590,000 people. The country, which has several official languages, is known for its very high living standards and for having one of the best business environments in the world. Luxembourg ranks at the top of the 25 richest countries in the world. But people make more than just business trips to Luxembourg. They come to see the capital’s ancient fortifications, art museums, cliffs and cannon-loopholes, the Grand-Ducal Palace, and the many picturesque villages in the Moselle region.
Volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, the Northern Lights, geysers, whale-watching, and, of course, the Skaftafell Ice Cave are some of the country’s top attractions. With a population of about 340,000 people, Iceland welcomed 2.3 million visitors in 2018, a 5.5% increase from 2017.
Until recently, Bulgaria was known as a cheap tourist destination in Eastern Europe, attracting tourists from Russia and Scandinavian countries who love to spend their summer vacations on the beaches of the Black Sea. But the country has significantly improved its infrastructure — and image — since becoming a member of the European Union in 2007. Most recently, all the attention has been on Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city and the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe. It was voted by the EU the 2019 European Capital of Culture. More than 12 million international tourists visited the country of just 7.1 million people in 2018.
By 2017, after seven year of increased tourism, Ireland welcomed 10.6 million overseas visitors, the country’s best tourism year ever. The number of tourists is more than double the country’s population of just about 4.8 million. Almost half of the visitors were there for pleasure — a 7.0% increase from the previous year. Some of the most visited places include Aran islands, Blarney Castle, the Burren region, the Cliffs of Moher, and various attractions and pubs in Dublin, the capital city. Tourism is a major component of the Irish economy, and has contributed to Ireland’s rank as one of the richest countries in the world.