by Oliver Smith, The Telegraph, April 2, 2018
Here we present some of the biggest head-scratchers in the world of tourism.
Which is more popular: Bath or Inverness?
With Roman remains, Georgian architecture and Jane Austen connections, surely Bath welcomes more tourists than plucky little Inverness? Not so, according to VisitBritain. London is number one, by a mile (19.06m overnight visitors in 2016), followed by Edinburgh (1.69m), Manchester (1.19m) and Birmingham (1.12m). Bath lags way down in 14th, with 331,000 arrivals, behind not only Inverness (which, we assume, is used by many as a launch pad for jaunts around the Highlands), with 340,000, but also Leeds, Cardiff and Bristol.
The surprise entry in the world’s 10 most visited cities
Euromonitor’s latest report on the world’s most visited cities didn’t have too many surprises. Hong Kong, Bangkok, London and Singapore fill the top four spots, in terms of international tourist arrivals, while Dubai, Paris and New York make the top 10. But so too does Shenzhen. A shade under 13 million visited the Chinese city in 2017 - more than went to Rome, Tokyo, Istanbul or Las Vegas. What’s so great about Shenzhen? Well, for one thing, 40 years ago it was a small market town of 30,000 people. Then in 1980 it became China’s first Special Economic Zone. Now more than 11 million people call it home. Tourists can admire countless skyscrapers, stay in a Four Seasons hotel, and visit the Window of the World theme park, which features 130 models of famous sights such as Mount Rushmore, the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat.
Which is more popular: Windsor or Reading?
Both are in Berkshire, but only one can boast the largest inhabited castle on the planet, Britain’s branch of Legoland, and a picturesque riverside racecourse. Yet it is Reading that makes VisitBritain’s top 20 at the expense of Windsor.
Macau is bigger than the Big Apple
Another surprising stat from Euromonitor’s latest Global Cities report? Macau, the Asian gambling hub, is the fifth most visited city in the world. It’s more popular than New York. And the whole of India.
The Maldives really needs your money
The value of tourism to the Maldivian economy is more than $1bn – or 39.6 per cent of its GDP. No destination is more reliant on tourist dollars.
Tourism accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of GDP in Russia, the biggest country on Earth. Because who needs travellers when you have mining?
Syria is more reliant on tourism than 140 other countries
Remarkably, Syria (where it accounts for 6.2 per cent of GDP) - despite years of war and unrest - is more reliant on tourism than around 140 other countries.
Which is France’s number two tourist town?
Paris is number one, naturellement. But number two isn’t Bordeaux, Nice or Marseille. It’s Lourdes, a town of 15,000 residents that manages to attract six million visitors every year thanks to the apparitions of a peasant girl called Bernadette. It has 270 hotels for you to choose from – only the French capital has more.
Only 8.7 per cent of Chinese own a passport
Americans are renowned for staying put, with only 36 per cent owning a passport. But that pales in comparison to Chinese citizens, only 8.7 per cent of whom carry the travel document required to explore the globe. China is the world’s largest market when it comes to outbound travel – but there’s still so much untapped potential.
More Britons visit the Canary Islands each year than Italy
Lying on a hot volcanic rock? It’s better than Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany, the Dolomites, the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast rolled into one. That’s according to ONS figures, which show that 2.86m of us go to the Canaries each year, compared with the 2.46m who visit Italy.
Tourists outnumber locals by 6,000 to 1 in the Vatican City
The Vatican City attracts around five million tourists each year and has a resident population of just 842. That's almost 6,000 tourists per citizen.
At the other end of the scale, Bangladesh gets just 0.0008 annual tourists for each permanent resident.
Tourism is booming in Israel and Palestine
The latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report revealed the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations for 2017 – and the top 10 is bookended by places that live not particularly harmoniously next to one another: Israel and Palestine. The former has seen a 25.1 per cent increase in visitors, while for the latter’s it’s 57.8 per cent. Filling the gaps in between are the likes of Iceland, Vietnam and Uruguay.
But nobody can beat Cambodia
In terms of relative growth, no country has experienced a tourism turnaround quite as spectacular as Cambodia’s. In 1990, just 17,000 travellers visited a country still reeling from the nightmarish rule of the Khmer Rouge, war with Vietnam, and a subsequent 10-year occupation. Fast forward three decades and Cambodia is now a highlight of many trips to south-east Asia. So much so that in 2016, the most recent year for which the UNWTO has comprehensive data, it welcomed 5.01m overseas arrivals – a 32,941 per cent increase. That is projected to rise to 5.6m for 2017.
The biggest hotel on Earth is not in Las Vegas
Of the 50 largest hotels on the planet, in terms of total number of rooms, exactly half are found in Sin City. But number one, the First World Hotel (which has a staggering 7,351 rooms), is somewhere far more obscure. The Genting Highlands of Malaysia. It will soon lose the record, however. The Abraj Kudai in Mecca, currently under construction, will have 10,000 rooms.
Only 0.029% of the world’s population have been to Antarctica
You get that rough figure if you divide the number of people who visit Antarctica each year (38,478) by the number of people born each year (131.4m). But even fewer have been to the least visited country on Earth, Tuvalu – just 0.0014% of us.
Iran has 22 World Heritage Sites
This won’t surprise anyone who has been there – it’s a fascinating place packed with history. Despite being home to 22 World Heritage Sites (just one less than the US), however, this Middle Eastern nation welcomed only five million visitors in 2016 (while the US got 77 million). In 2016, British Airways resumed direct flights between London and Tehran, the country’s capital, which is home to art galleries, museums and striking architecture such as the Azadi Tower monument and spectacular mosques. So getting there has never been simpler.
Everyone wants to go to Croatia
A comprehensive analysis of Google data by teflSearch found that Croatia features in 2.71 per cent of travel-related searches worldwide, more than any other nation. Yet Croatia is only the 26th most visited country, with 13.8m arrivals in 2016.
Where do you go when you already live in world’s most desirable destination? Somewhere even more idyllic, it would seem. The analysis revealed that the top destination for Croatians is the Maldives.
And Aussies are obsessed with Fiji
The same study revealed that Aussies are mad about Fiji, with the little island nation the subject of 16.1 per cent of searches, followed by New Zealand (10.3 per cent) and Thailand (6.5 per cent).
English is the global language
Thanks to a combination of colonialism, mass tourism and invasive Western culture, English really is the global language. According to David Crystal's book English as a Global Language, at least half the population of 45 countries speak it. There are just 13 countries where fewer than 10 per cent of the population speak English, including China, Colombia, Brazil and Russia.