World Tourism Fast Facts

In honor of World Tourism Day, here are some fast facts about pleasure traveling around the world.

  • Tourism has ancient roots, going all the way back to the 20th century B.C.E., when Sumerian kings prided themselves on facilitating travelers through infrastructure projects like roads and waystations. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese each have records of people traveling to foreign lands for pleasure, although this activity was almost exclusively among the most wealthy and well connected.

  • Tourism as we understand it today has roots in the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, particularly in the United Kingdom, which saw the emergence of a large and growing middle class that had the disposable income and greater free time to travel; other industrializing nations were soon to follow. The first travel agency, Cox & Kings, was founded in the U.K. in 1758, while leisure cruises and rail lines came about in the mid 19th century.
  • Tourism has become a globalized endeavor worth over one trillion dollars since 2011. In 2012, the number of international tourists alone cross the one billion threshold. By 2015, the number grew to 1.186 billion, a growth of 5 percent over the prior year.
  • According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the biggest spenders on international tourism as of 2015 were China, which expended around $292 billion on travel, followed by the United States at $112.9 billion, Germany at $77.5 billion, the U.K. at $63.3 billion, and France at $38.4 billion. Rounding out the top ten were Russia, Canada, South Korea, Italy, and Australia.
  • The most popular countries to visit are as follows:

Maurice Flesier / Wikimedia Commons 2016-09-26 23-06-33.jpg

Wikimedia Commons

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