PHOTO: Koh Phi Phi in Thailand (photo via Flickr/Jorge Brazil)
Global tourism has more than doubled over the past two decades with inbound tourist arrivals climbing from 540 million in 1995 to more than 1.1 billion in 2014.
According to a recent Chicago Line Cruises blog post citing tourism data from the World Bank database, some destinations have benefited from that growth more than others.
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While perennial tourism hotspots like the U.S., France and the U.K. have fallen short of a global average growth rate of 2.15—in large part because of their impressive inbound tourism numbers prior to 1995—many places throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia have experienced rapid growth over the past 20-plus years.
Eased travel restrictions and increased accessibility have made getting there easier and more rewarding.
Armenia (100.33), the Kyrgyz Republic (79.14) and Angola (66.11) led the way with the highest rate of growth from 1995 to 2014, with the country of Georgia (64.89) and Bhutan (26.80) rounding out the top five.
Sudan (23.59), Cambodia (20.47), Yemen (16.23), Myanmar (15.88) and Iraq (14.62) also ranked in the top 10.
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Of the 150 countries analyzed, Moldova (0.34), Bermuda (0.58), Bangladesh (0.80), Poland (0.83) and Belarus (0.85) saw the lowest rates of inbound tourism growth between 1995 and 2014. The Bahamas (0.89), Nigeria (0.91), Canada (0.98) and Guam (0.99) also recorded growth rates below 1.00.
Interestingly, Turkey ranked 25th with a strong growth rate of 5.62, more than double the global average despite combating a tumultuous political climate. Saudi Arabia (5.49), Japan (4.01), Hong Kong (3.89), Malaysia (3.67), Thailand (3.57), Brazil (3.23), Haiti (3.21), the United Arab Emirates (3.08) and China (2.78) have also seen sizable growth outpacing the global average.
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According to accommodation booking site agoda.com's Travel Smart study, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand and China are home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing destinations in Asia.
On the flip side, Spain (1.86), Australia (1.84), Ireland (1.83), the U.S. (1.73), Italy (1.56), the U.K. (1.50), Mexico (1.45) and France (1.40) stand out among the most notable destinations performing below the global average in terms of inbound tourism growth.
While the aforementioned countries remain high on travelers' lists, Chicago Line Cruises points out that "many of the countries with lower growth rates tend to have issues with crime, economy, and an unsteady political climate that includes terrorism, bureaucratic upheaval and government instability."
Yet, as transportation improves and technology continues to evolve, it's easier now than ever before to experience someplace new.