With just one week until we bid farewell to 2018, it feels an opportune time to look at the countries that thrust themselves onto travel radars over the last 12 months – and those that slipped from the spotlight. The story for several nations was one of continued recovery. Take Turkey. It endured a year to forget in 2015, when security concerns saw visitor numbers fall from 39.5m to 30.3m. Last year it clawed back much of that ground, with 37.6m overseas tourists exploring its ancient sites or flopping on one of its beaches. This year looks certain to be its biggest yet, with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasting 46m visitors, an increase of 22.4 per cent. That’s based on figures up to and including September – the exact total won’t be known until early next year – and it should be enough to see Turkey leapfrog the UK and Mexico to become the world’s sixth most visited country.
Tunisia is also resurgent. The terror attack in Sousse saw visitor numbers fall to 5.4m in 2015. They steadied to 5.7m in 2016, rose to 7.1m last year, and are expected to increase again to around 8.3m for 2018 (up 16.9 per cent). But which was the world’s fastest growing travel destination in 2018? As outlined above, the final figures will not be confirmed for a few months – but the majority of countries have supplied the UNWTO with data for the first nine months of the year (others, such as the US, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia, appear less prompt when it comes to border bureaucracy). And topping the chart for year-on-year growth is a South American nation that’s home to an Avenue of Volcanoes and a train journey called The Devil’s Nose. It’s Ecuador.