The most and least visited countries per capita in the world

by Paul Joseph  |  Published September 18, 2018

Ever felt like there seem to be a lot of tourists in your country? A recent survey into the most visited countries in the world in relation to their respective populations has revealed Iceland as the number one destination, with more than six visitors for every single inhabitant.

Iceland’s capital Reykjavik (Photo: Sheila Ahmadi /Flickr)

Some countries, like India, are on almost everybody’s bucket list. Others are popular regionally, but you might be surprised by some of the most visited countries in the world in terms of the number of visitors per local inhabitant.

By taking the annual visitor numbers to every sovereign country (with a population of at least 100,000) and comparing them against the total number of citizens, has compiled this survey on the most and least popular travel destinations.

Numbers for visitor arrivals used for the survey were taken from a report released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in August 2018. For countries where such official data was unknown, other sources were used. Population figures for each country were taken from UN Statistics Division data.

With 6,600 visitors per 1,000 citizens arriving in Iceland each year, the beautiful island nation emerged on top. The Central Mediterranean island of Malta was in second place with 5,300 visitors, while the Bahamas in the Caribbean completed the top three spots with 3,800 visitors.

At the other end of the spectrum Somalia, Yemen and Libya came out as the least visited counties, with less than one visitor per 1,000 citizens. While no UNWTO data was available for these destinations, tourist arrivals are close to zero according to various independent sources.

The table below shows the 20 most and least visited countries in the world based on the total number of tourists per 1,000 citizens.

Most Visited Countries:

1. Iceland 6,600
2. Malta 5,300
3. Bahamas 3,800
4. Croatia 3,700
5. Austria 3,400
6. Maldives 3,200
7. Cyprus 3,000
8. Montenegro 2,900
9. Bahrain 2,900
10. Estonia 2,500
11. Antigua & Barbuda 2,400
12. Singapore 2,400
13. Greece 2,400
14. Barbados 2,300
15. St. Lucia 2,200
16. Ireland 2,100
17. Denmark 1,900
18. Spain 1,800
19. Luxembourg 1,700
20. Slovenia 1,700

Least Visited Countries:

1. Yemen <1
2. Libya <1
3. Somalia <1
4. Afghanistan 1
5. Central African Republic 1
6. Turkmenistan 2
7. Bangladesh 2
8. Congo 4
9. Equatorial Guinea 4
10. Democratic Republic of the Congo 4
11. Pakistan 4
12. Chad 5
13. Guinea 5
14. Niger 7
15. Sierra Leone 7
16. Burkina Faso 8
17. Ethiopia 8
18. Liberia 10
19. Madagascar 10
20. Mali 11

The UK has seen a big increase in tourism thanks to the pound sterling’s drop in value after Brexit, but still only sees 569 visitors per 1,000 inhabitants. Canada’s per capita tourism numbers are an almost exact match. They stand far above the USA, however, which only registered 233 visitors per 1,000 Americans (the US was the only major power in the developed world that failed to provide data in 2017, therefore the figures used came from the previous administration).

France received more visitors than any other country in the world at almost 87 million, putting their total at 1,340 per 1,000. Somewhat surprisingly, despite a relatively small population, Australia received only 360 visitors per 1,000 inhabitants. And as for India? The vast population (1.32 billion and climbing rapidly), coupled with pricey visas hampers the numbers greatly, with only 11.7 visitors per 1,000.

A note on the methodology: Iceland had 2,224,000 visitors in 2017. Therefore, with a population of 335,000, that means the country received 6,600 visitors (rounded) per 1,000 citizens.