Foreign Tourists

Which country receives the largest number of foreign tourists and where are they from?

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Map of the most common foreign tourists in Europe.

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We looked at the most popular holiday destinations of Europeans before, this time we’re going to look at the tourists that travel to these countries.

It’s not difficult to spot who is the most common foreign tourist in Europe. In the vast majority of the countries on this map Germans are the most common foreign tourist. British are the most common tourists in most of the southern European countries.

Apart from the largest group of foreign tourists, this map also shows us the total number of nights foreign tourists spend at tourist accommodations. Spain and Italy are by far the most popular destinations for foreign tourists. In Italy, foreign tourists spent a total of 221 million nights. In Spain they spend 299 million nights. France, Greece and Turkey also receive a large number of foreign tourists.

Now you might say that absolute numbers are not the best way to visualize this data. Wouldn’t it be better to visualize it by nights spent per 1,000 inhabitants or per km2? Well, that would imply that there is a relation between the area size or population size of a country and the number of tourists. That’s not necessarily the case. Yes, a larger population or area size does mean there is more potential for a higher capacity for tourists. But that doesn’t mean there are more interesting places to visit for tourists. Using the absolute number, you will get a better picture of where the foreign tourists mostly go. If I’d used the number of tourists per 1,000 inhabitants, it would give a misleading picture of how popular countries are for foreign tourists. It would make it look like Finland is much more touristy than Turkey, even though 132 million tourists visited Turkey in 2019 and only 7 million tourists visited Finland. Showing the number of tourists per 1,000 inhabitants or per km2 can be useful if you want to show the impact and possible pressure tourism puts on a country.

The data for this map is from 2019 and gives a good picture of the situation before the pandemic disrupted the tourism industry. The largest group of foreign tourists is based on the total number of nights they’ve spent in that country for tourism.

This map does not take into account the number of people that spend their holiday in their own country. If we’d take domestic tourists into account as well, the ranking doesn’t change a whole lot. Spain would still be on top, but France and Germany would end up just behind Spain and just in front of Italy.

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