Global tourism experienced a 4% upturn in 2021, compared to 2020 (415 million versus 400 million). However, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) were still 72% below the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to preliminary estimates by UNWTO.
So where was everyone going? Below are the top 20 destinations by travellers in 2021. Please note that this data is only for overnight trips and does not include day trips.
As you can see, not much has changed in the top 10 in the last 12 months, except a large decrease in their visitors overall, due to the pandemic.
While tourism has picked up slightly in 2021, they still fall far short of the pre-pandemic numbers.
France still remains one of the biggest tourist draws in the world, despite a slight decrease in visitors due to COVID-19. Paris is well-known for having a cultural vibrant life, countless museums and art exhibits, great cuisine and beautiful architecture. The rest of the country is sometimes underestimated by many tourists who prefer to stay in Paris.
Our tip: explore some other parts of France - spending a weekend in Normandy or Bordeaux could give you a completely different scenery and enrich your trip !
The land of the Free is still the Top 2 Destination. The US has so much to offer: from the unforgetable Big Apple to the sunny beaches in Florida or the amazing landscapes of the South West, everybody will find a place they like in the US.
Our tip: the US is a very big country and we advise you to target one or a few places to visit otherwise you might come back from your US trip more tired than when you went on holiday !
It’s been a huge destination for much of Europe looking for summer breaks. The sunny weather, the beautiful beaches and of course the welcoming people explain why Spain is at the top of the list.
Our tip: while many tourists go to Spain to enjoy the sun and the beach, Spain has a lot more to offer with a rich and diverse cultural heritage. If you want to discover the cultural beauty of Spain, we advise you to visit outside the summer months (July/August). The heat and the crowd are sometimes too much to enjoy the experience.
China is unsurprisingly one of the most popular tourist destinations. This country has a lot to offer and you can have many different incentives to visit : modern cities such as Shanghai ; rich cultural heritage (The Great Wall,...) or beautiful landscape such as the Yellow Mountains. China has a unique culture and nearly 60 million tourists were lucky enough to get a taste of it in 2021.
Our tip: the Chinese cuisine can be very different from the one you know in South Africa but you should go for it - Trying new things is part of the fun !
It truly deserves its spot among the world's most popular countries. We have all heard of Rome, Venice, or Milan and there are plenty of reasons for that. If you go to Italy, you will understand what the Dolce Vita really means : great cuisine, warmhearted people and a chill lifestyle.
Culturally speaking, you might be overwhelmed as Italy offers so many options !
Our tip: list the museums and other attractions you really want to see and give yourself some time to just wander the streets to relax and enjoy the scenery!
The United Kingdom is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. London offers a lot of options when it comes to culture, history or entertainment. But the UK is not only about London. If you have the chance, try to explore other parts of this multicultural country. Wales and Scotland are worth visiting and you will get quite a different experience there than in London.
Our tip: If you plan on visiting London, plan your trip ahead to make sure the hotel you want is available and affordable. London is a busy city !
Germany remains one key country to visit in the world with many cities and regions to explore. From Hamburg to Munich, travelling around Germany is easy by train and will help you discover the German culture. Keep in mind: Germany is not all about the cities - if you like hiking, Germany has the Bavarian Alps or the Black Forest.
Our tip: Try to learn a few words in German - it helps connect with people more easily when you show interest in their language !
Mexico is known for its beautiful beaches and nice weather but don't reduce Mexico to that. Aside from being a culltural hub, Mexico has breath-taking landscapes worth exploring. As for the food, you will not be disappointed with the flavors and variety.
Our tip: Try to combine both visits and sunbathing on a beach to make the most out of your trip on Mexico
Known by many as the prettiest place in the world, we're not surprised that this country features on the list. Thailand is worth the trip: turquoise waters with amazing beaches on the islands and splendid cities up North. Thailand is a great idea to escape from your daily routine.
Our tip: the street food is great and very cheap !
One of the most fun cities in the world, Istanbul, has seen a massive number of people wanting to travel here. It's no surprise that Turkey has been making its way onto many top tourism lists, although Istambul is not the only place in Turkey to visit. Turkey's unique geography between Europe and the Middle-East has given the country a beautiful mix of influences. Don't forget Turkey has also very nice beaches if you like to lie down in the sun.
Tip: Istanbul is worth visiting even for a few days. It's a unique city with very rich history !