Ten Countries That Deserve More Tourists

Jolyon Attwooll, The Daily Telegraph, February 04, 2014

The beaches may be beautiful and the coastline inviting, but you can understand why Tuvalu doesn’t get much through-traffic. It’s tiny for a start; one of the smallest nations in the world, and not much bigger than Vatican City. It’s also about as far from the beaten track as possible – right out in the middle of the South Pacific.

So the 1,200 international arrivals recorded there in 2011 – according to the World Bank – had to make quite an effort. It had the least number of recorded visitors for all countries where data was available (and no, there were no figures for North Korea).

Incidentally, if you are curious about Tuvalu, the official tourism website is surprisingly enticing. See www.timelesstuvalu.com for more information.

Low tourism to other nations is less easy to explain. Here we round up some of the places where visitor numbers are surprisingly low.



The world’s biggest democracy ought to be a huge hitter when it comes to tourism. Right in the centre of Asia, with strong historical links to Britain, it has some amazing attractions, from the Taj Mahal to tigers. But with less then seven million foreign arrivals last year, it is hardly setting the world alight with its visitor numbers. To put that into context, that’s less than a third of Thailand’s 22.4m during the same year.


Why are numbers low?

The difficult visa process is one problem – one that tourist authorities are apparently trying to address, with a drive to reduce bureaucracy. The recent spate of bad publicity about attitudes towards women – including some recent attacks on tourists – has also done little to boost the country’s image.

India: a beginner's guide

The Philippines


A glorious archipelago with miles and miles of pristine beaches, the Philippines certainly look enticing. On an unscientific level, news that the Philippines featured in Telegraph’s 20 places to visit in 2014 was greeted enthusiastically and retweeted widely on social networks. Yet the number of visitors was only just above four million in 2012.


It’s a shortfall that’s recognised within the country’s own borders, with tourism officials aiming for more than 10m visitors in 2016.

Why are numbers low?

Political instability bedevilled the country for many years, and natural disasters certainly have not helped, Typhoon Haiyan being a recent, tragic example.

Despite those images of devastation, most of the country remains open for business, as explained here .



This landlocked country in South Asia is a beautiful, mountainous nation. With a strongly Buddhist culture, wonderful treks, remote forests and Himalayan kingdoms, there is a wealth of visitor attractions – yet there were only around 44,000 to appreciate them in 2012.

Why are numbers low?

This is the country’s own choice. Bhutan has long limited tourists: visitors have to pay a tariff of $250 a day to enter, a fee that immediately excludes many of the backpackers that head to Thailand.

Bhutan untamed: Bhutan's hardest trek



It may be the most visited country in South America, but that continent as a whole remains relatively unexplored. For a country with such a reputation for its beaches, natural assets and football culture, Brazil is arguably still not punching its full weight. It’s comfortably the biggest economy in the region, and its attractions vary from the beaches of El Salvador, Rio’s Carnival to the remote flora and fauna of the Amazon.


Why are numbers low?

5.7 million visitors isn’t that bad, you might argue, considering the country is hardly positioned at the world’s crossroads. But then, Australia gets more than six million, and it is further away from both Europe and the USA. The question is: will this year’s World Cup change the tourism industry in Brazil? Bolivia and Peru are two other countries where the visitor numbers don’t seem to match the attractions on offer.

Brazil: travel guide for England fans



For culture and history, few countries can compare with Greece. Often referred to as the birthplace of democracy, with ancient ruins dotting the landscape, it also has glorious beaches, and some wonderful islands – often at good value.


Why are numbers low?

Greece’s recent travails have been well documented, and there was inevitably an affect on the country due to that. Signs are that tourism is on the rise again – with around 17 million people thought to have visited in 2013. Not a disaster, but then, when you think Spain has almost 60m and Italy is at almost 50m…

Greece: summer holidays guide



For a country that has given so much to the world culturally – from temples to the madness of Tokyo – Japan has a relative dearth of visitors (about 8.4m, only about a million more than for Taiwan).


Why are numbers low?

High prices are probably the main reason – although with the devalued yen, that is less of a problem than it used to be. The country’s cultural complexity could be another – perhaps the writing and language are viewed as obstacles by novices. The 2020 Olympics could provide a boost, however.

Tokyo 2020: travel guide

Welcome to Planet Tokyo

New Zealand


With Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit offering a giant marketing boost over the last few years, the number of tourists to this beautiful country is on the increase. But at just over 2.5m international arrivals at the last full count, it is still a long way behind Australia, its neighbour across the Tasman – it has only slightly more than a third of the visitors.


Why are numbers low?

It’s a very long way away from almost everywhere, with a much smaller population than Australia (and hence fewer European relatives to visit). Australia also has more flight connections, and a reputation for its beaches.

New Zealand's hobbit-related sites



For a country whose fjords and wooden clapboard houses are almost instantly recognisable, Norway is significantly behind its neighbour Sweden for international arrivals, which has more than double the number of visitors, at around 10m. In some respects, however, business is booming: more Britons went on a cruise to Norway in 2012 than to the Caribbean.


Why are numbers low?

Expense would be one reason; Norway is hardly a destination for the budget traveller. Sweden also has more neighbours, which would explain some of the discrepancy, with the country easily accessible across the bridge from Denmark.



With vast landscapes, natural wonders, and mesmerising wildlife, Zimbabwe should be a rival to South Africa. Once upon a time it was, but visitor numbers have declined in recent years – it now registers around 1.8m visitors (compared to South Africa's 9.2m), and many more head to the mighty Victoria Falls from the Zambian side nowadays.


Why are numbers low?

Robert Mugabe.

Should tourists go back to Zimbabwe?

Bosnia and Hercegovina


At the intersection of two great empires – the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman – this region has huge historic appeal, perhaps most notably in its capital city, Sarajevo. With its rivers and mountains, it is also being touted as a future adventure capital of Eastern Europe. Yet, of all the countries belonging to the former Yugoslavia, only Croatia has been a true success with its tourist industry (10.4m in 2012), with only 439,000 going to Bosnia and Hercegovina in the same year.


Why are numbers low?

The shadow of the Balkans conflict has been hard to shake – and it lacks the magnificent coastline of Croatia, for example. There are also currently no direct flights from Britain either.

* Note: figures are taken from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, and do not distinguish between business and leisure travellers. You can download the full PDF here .

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