The world’s fastest growing travel destinations –

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The fastest growing by % increase in tourist arrivals

The following 10 countries saw the sharpest increase in visitor numbers during 2015, compared with the previous year. The figures come courtesy of the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO). Some countries have not yet returned data for the fourth quarter of 2015, in which case we have used projections based on performance during the first nine months of the year. 

10. Seychelles 

+ 18.7% to 276,000

Why go? Because they are among the most beautiful islands on Earth, with white sand beaches frequented by egg-laying turtles and some extraordinarily romantic hotels

The Seychelles: idyllic

The Seychelles: idyllic

© jakub pavlinec 2013/Jakub Pavlinec

9. Chile

+ 20.4% to 4.42m

Why go? To marvel at the colourful houses of Valparaiso, the otherworldly Atacama, and the spectacular mountains of Patagonia

8. Thailand

+22.3% to 30.3m

Thailand’s growing popularity

Why go? For beaches, nightlife, temples, fantastic street food and luxury hotels.

7. Panama

+22.4% to 2.13m

Why go? Our Panama expert Chris Moss lists five good reasons to go: “The Panama Canal, an astounding feat of engineering and surprisingly beautiful to look at thanks to the surrounding rainforest; the town ofBoquete and nearby cloud forest-covered peaks for hiking, rafting, visiting coffee plantations and hot springs; Bocas del Toro archipelago, where pristine tropical forests lie on deserted beaches, for the moment; and the beaches of San Blas’ 378 islands (only 49 inhabited), clichéd tropical perfection (used in the Survivor TV show) but also home to indigenous Kuna communities.”

6. Bosnia and Herzegovina

+28.2% to 687,000

Why go? Because Sarajevo is a scandalously underrated city break destination. “Surrounded by green hills and bisected by a river, it is a place of spectacular beauty, and though the scars of the siege of the 1990s are still evident, Sarajevans display heartening resilience and vitality,” says Adrian Bridge.

5. Iceland

+29.8% to 1.29m

How we fell for Iceland

Why go? To explore the frozen landscapes that feature so prominently in Game of Thrones, and to see Reykjavik, perhaps Europe’s coolest capital city

4. Japan

+47.5% to 19.7m

Japan comes of age

Why go? For peaceful Kyoto, hectic Toyko, flower-filled Hokkaido and beaches that look like they’ve been airlifted from the South Pacific

Macaques in Hokkaido

Macaques in Hokkaido

© Radius Images / Alamy Stock Photo/Radius Images / Alamy Stock Photo

3. Niue

+62.9% to 11,000

Why go? Because you’ll be the only person in your town who has. Yes, visitor numbers to Niue rose 62.9% last year, but that equates to just 4,000 extra people. 

2. Tajikistan

+94% – 414,000

Why go? “This small, poor country is the least visited in Central Asia,” writes Chris Moss. “Half the country lies above 9,800ft, and the Fann and Pamir mountain ranges are ideal for extreme hiking and camping. The Pamir Highway (also known, more prosaically, as the M41) is a celebrated update of the original Silk Road. The capital, Dushanbe, is on the highway and is the location of Central Asia’s largest extant Buddha statue.

Spectacular scenery in Tajikistan

Spectacular scenery in Tajikistan

“Tajikistan is remarkably free of outside influence – and therefore of burger and coffee chains, advertising, and consumerism in general, as well as the all-pervasive and intrusive electronic gizmos that are everywhere in, say, Astana or Tashkent. The Foreign Office advises against travel to the eastern half of the country. Silk Road Tours (020 8728 2478; and Great Game (028 9091 3001; can arrange trips.”

1. Paraguay

+97% to 1.27m

Paraguay: it was a very good year

Why go? Chris Moss, author of our Paraguay travel guide, writes: “For the moment, fascinating regions such as the wildlife-rich wetlands of the Paraguayan Pantanal and the immense Gran Chaco, beloved of birdwatchers, will attract only those with plenty of time and patience and the desire to go somewhere really different. 

“Asunción, founded in 1537, is older than Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro. Depending on your point of view it’s a backwater or a pleasant, human-sized capital. Arguably the finest attractions in Paraguay, the two Unesco-listed Jesuit Missions of the Holy Trinity of the Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue are not touristy at all and are as impressive as Argentina’s more famous ruins at San Ignacio Miní.” 

The fastest growing by % increase in tourism’s contribution to GDP

This top 10 was compiled by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and reflects the increase in the contribution of travel and tourism’s to total GDP during 2015, compared with the previous year.

10. Myanmar

+ 15.4%

How Burma made it big

Why go? Gill Charlton, our Burma expert, writes: “It has some wondrous sights: a thousand temples scattered across the countryside in Bagan; the leg-rowers and floating gardens of Inle Lake, and majestic rivers – the Ayeyarwady and the Chindwin – navigable into the furthest reaches of the country. But the big draw is the chance to see a country where the 21st-century world has barely intruded. This is changing but there is still a strong sense of the old Orient here. It’s a place where Buddhism is still a way of life.”

9. Vietnam

+ 16.1% 

Vietnam’s tourism surge

Why go? Vietnam’s growth in popularity comes as no suprise to Telegraph Travel – it was named among our 20 destinations to visit in 2015. “Its cities are absurdly in-your-face, driven by the buzz of a million motorbikes and the palpable thrust of energy and commerce, yet this is a nation that also does subtle – just try the food,” explained Iain Stewart. “North of Hoi An, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is Vietnam’s hottest region for 2015. Riddled with an astonishing number of cave systems, including the Hang Son Doong (the world’s largest cave) the scenery is spectacular with rainforest, towering karst peaks and jungle rivers.” 

8. Iceland

+ 16.3%

Why go? In addition to the reasons listed above, because you can watch the Northern Lightswalk inside a glacier, and descend into a volcano

Why you must see the northern lights in your lifetime

Why you must see the Northern Lights in your lifetime

7. Tanzania

+ 16.5%

Why go? Because it plays host to one of the most remarkable spectacles in nature: The Great Migration. Check out our guide and start planning your trip

Bucket List: The Great Migration

Why you must witness the Great Migration in your lifetime

6. Thailand

+ 18.4%

Why go? There’s the aforementioned beaches, the unspoiled islands – and what might just be the world’s coolest spot for afternoon tea

Afternoon tea with a difference

Afternoon tea with a difference

paul raeside

5. Georgia

+ 19.4%

Why go? Claire Allfree recommends getting lost in the splendour of the Georgian capital. She writes: “These days, its fine Art Nouveau buildings and pretty, traditional balconied houses are what some would call shabby chic: if any city needed a good lick of Farrow and Ball, this one does. Yet new hotels and shopping malls are springing up and gentrification is under way in its more historic districts. Determinedly looking towards Europe, Tbilisi feels like a city finally coming into itself. In other words, get here fast before everyone else does.” Katie Melua, the singer, is another fan – it is, after all, her childhood home. “It’s steeped in history – the Old Town, with its twisting alleys, is particularly fascinating,” she says. “It’s a city that’s very much off the beaten track. Not many tourists have been there, which makes it all the more worth visiting.”

4. Paraguay

+ 23.1%

Why go? See above. Chris Moss also recommends hiking in the Parque Nacional Ybicuy, the last rainforest in the country, and taking a passenger boat ride down the Río Paraguay, from Asunción to Concepción – “take a rod and hook a huge dorado”.

3. Qatar

+ 23.7%

The rise of Qatar

Why go? Christine Gerber Rutt, our Qatar expert, writes: “Doha, the capital and main city, changes exponentially every month. Luxury hotels, spas, world class restaurants, malls and architecturally unusual buildings sprout up constantly. Alongside the cutting-edge modernity, there’s still a chance to shop in vibrant souqs and markets, explore fascinating heritage sites and attend top-class equestrian events.

“Mild winters mean that visitors can enjoy outdoor activities whether it’s swimming in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, experiencing a taste of Bedouin life in the sand dunes or getting out into the mangroves by kayak.”

2. Azerbaijan

+ 27.3%

Why go? BA ( flies to Baku, the Azeri capital, in under six hours. Already popular with Christian pilgrims, the region is home to old vineyards, Black Sea beaches and hilltop monasteries. And Baku itself is pretty bonkers. It contains a replica of Venice and the intriguing Museum of the Dwarf Book. 

Baku has some very small books

Baku has some very small books

1. Uganda

+ 36.7%

Why go? The country’s biggest draw is wildlife – and most notably its mountain gorillas. Read our expert guide to start planning your trip

Head to Uganda for close encounters with gorillas

Head to Uganda for close encounters with gorillas
Top 10 countries tipped for a tourism boom

WTTC forecasts that the total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP will grow fastest over the next decade in the following countries:

10. Namibia

+ 6.6% per year

Why go? Nigel Richardson writes: “Of all the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia is arguably the most comprehensively tourist-friendly. Not only does it have exceptional wildlife – including a quarter of the world’s cheetahs and the last free-ranging population of black rhino – and a well-developed network of parks, reserves and safari lodges, but the landscapes of its coastline and deserts are some of the most photographed and gasped over in the world, meriting a visit in their own right.”

Epic dunes in Namibia

Epic dunes in Namibia

Iuliia Sokolovska – Fotolia

9. Lebanon

+ 6.8% per year

Why go? Large parts of the country are currently off-limits, but WTTC still believes Lebanon has huge tourism potential. Indeed, in Skyscanner’s 2014 “Future of Travel” report, Dr Ian Yeoman, a “travel futurologist”, predicted that Lebanon would become “the new Dubai”. Beirut, its capital, is considered by many to be among the most exciting and welcoming cities on Earth

8. China

+ 7% per year

How tourism to China soared

Why go? Michelle Jana Chan, author of our China travel guide, writes: “Some travel to China to marvel at the skylines of cranes, innovative architectural projects and the country’s artistic endeavours. They should head to the financial and commercial hub of Shanghai, as well as to Beijing’s Olympic Village and the capital’s contemporary art district, housed in a former munitions factory, and called 798. Others will be keen to learn more about China’s 5,000-year-old civilisation. That is best viewed through the country’s museums and monuments, from the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an to Beijing’s Forbidden City, which served as the imperial palace from the Ming dynasty until the end of the Qing dynasty.” 

7. Mozambique

+ 7% per year

Why go? Its seaside hotspots are driving the country’s tourism boom. On the Pemba peninsula in the north, a five-star resort, Diamonds Mequfi Beach (, opened last summer. In the south, new top-end accommodation includes Colina Verde (, with its wild coastal panoramas, nearby Machangulo Beach Lodge (, which offers game drives and fabulous diving, and barefoot luxury Anvil Bay ( launching in December.

6. Tanzania

+ 7.1% per year

Why go? As well as the wildebeest (see above), you might get a close-up with a curious cheetah

5. Vietnam

+ 7.2% per year

Why go? In addition to the aforementioned attractions, there’s the utterly mesmerising Halong Bay. 

Floating homes in Halong Bay

Floating homes in Halong Bay

4. Zambia

+ 7.4% per year

Why go? To marvel at Victoria Falls, and stay at some of the continent’s finest safari camps, including Chongwe ( and Royal Zambezi Lodge (

3. India

+ 7.5% per year

Why go? Gill Charlton, our India expert, writes: “Without question, India is the most engaging, colourful, chaotic, spiritual and life-affirming country in the world. It is an assault on the senses – all of them, nearly all of the time.I have been visiting the country for 25 years and still find myself full of wonder at the diversity of its cultural riches, from temple sculptures and murals that rival the best of the Italian Renaissance to the artistry of ordinary people in a land where much is still made by hand.”

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

© Marina Pissarova / Alamy Stock Photo/Marina Pissarova / Alamy Stock Photo

2. Myanmar

+ 7.7% per year

Why go? For those reasons listed above. It’s also home to a python that’s believed to be the reincarnation of a monk, perhaps the most beautiful river cruise ship in the world, and the beer costs 30p a glass

1. Kyrgyzstan

+ 8.2% per year

Why go? Adventurous horseback riders have long favoured this rugged country, partly because only riders can really access the fertile valleys and mountain passes. Rural Kyrgyzstan also allows visitors to meet nomadic families, who take to the high ground every summer. In the Saddle (01299 272997; organises group trips. Kyrgyzstan is opening up to community tourism – homestays and yurt stays can be organised through CBT (00996 312 54 00 69; High-altitude Lake Song-Köl offers stargazing while camping in a yurt.

The most visited destinations of 2015

And finally, the world’s most visited destinations last year, according to UNWTO’s confirmed figures or projections. Their attractions are so well known, we won’t bother recounting them here.

The world’s most visited countries

10. Russia

31.6m visitors in 2015

9. Mexico


8. UK


7. Germany


6. Turkey


5. Italy


4. China


3. Spain


2. USA


1. France


The world’s fastest growing travel destinations –

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