Skift Take

From improving visa policies and attracting more business travel to launching powerful marketing campaigns and going after the markets that matter (like the UK. is doing with U.S. tourists), there are some strong takeaways from how the world's most visited countries maintain their lofty perches.

For a year that unfortunately had a myriad of headlines related to terrorism, disease and other unpleasantries, 2015 was still a banner year for many of the world’s most visited countries.

Even France, with its iconic capital suffering two terrorist attacks on the front and tail ends of last year, managed to squeeze out a record number of tourist visits. The French government counts 84.5 million international visitor arrivals for 2015–a new record high for the country–albeit, only a 0.8 percent increase over its 2014 arrivals.

France attributes its new record relaxed to visa regulations for visitors from Asia-Pacific. Tourist arrivals from that region increased 22.7 percent year-over-year and since 2014 visa wait times for Chinese, Indian, and Singaporean visitors have been reduced to 48 hours. The number of Chinese tourists visiting France, for example, increased 38 percent (2.2 million visitors) from 2014 to 2015 and surpassed the two million mark for the first time.

Some 4.8 million Americans also visited France last year, a 15.2 percent increase over 2014. The U.S. remains one of France’s largest visitor markets.

The U.S. tourist played a crucial role in the overall health of the global travel industry last year and the U.K.’s visitor totals captures that. The U.S. market hit a new record for the U.K. in 2015 with 3.3 million Americans visiting and their spending topping $4.3 billion.

Across the pond, the U.S. also had a double digit increase in Chinese visitors. About 2.5 million Chinese visited U.S. destinations in 2015 (an 18 percent increase) and this comes after the U.S. government began issuing 10-year visas to Chinese tourists after lifting restrictions in late 2014.

With the Brexit vote this week it’s worth a reminder that U. tourists are also critical to global tourism. UK tourists are the largest overseas visitor markets in the U.S., France, Spain and several other countries which could feel some impact if the UK votes to leave the European Union. Business travel blowback–and many UK business leaving the country–is also a possibility depending on how the country votes. The U.S. is Britain’s largest overseas market, for example, and about 23 percent of all visitors were business travelers in 2015.

Below are charts breaking down the top visitor markets for three of the top five most visited countries. France and Italy, the first and fifth most visited countries, respectively, have so far only released their total visitor numbers for 2015 and haven’t provided breakdowns by market.


Country Number of Visitors in 2015 Percent Change From 2014
UK 4.9 million 18%
Japan 3.7 million 4%
Mainland China 2.5 million 18%
Germany 2.27 million 10%
Brazil 2.21 million -2%
Overall International Visitor Total 77.5 million 3%


Country Number of Visitors in 2015 Percent Change From 2014
UK 15.7 million 5%
France 11.5 million 9%
Germany 10.2 million -1.20%
Nordic countries (including Norway, Finland, etc) 4.9 million -1.01%
Italy 3.9 million 6.30%
Overall International Visitor Total 68.2 million 5.05%


Country Number of Visitors in 2015 Percent Change From 2014
South Korea 4.4 million 6.30%
Japan 2.4 million -8.10%
Vietnam 2.1 million 26.40%
U.S. 2.08 million -0.40%
Russia 1.5 million -22.70%
Overall International Visitor Total 56.8 million 2.30%

Source: Country tourism boards and tourism ministries data


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Tags: tourism

Photo credit: Tourists walk in the courtyard of the Louvre museum, in Paris, France. France was once again the world's most visited country in 2015 with more than 84 million international visitors. Thibault Camus / Associated Press

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