ParisAll eyes will be on France by the end of the year to see if it can retain its global tourism crown post-pandemic, according to new research.

The holiday car rental experts at StressFreeCarRental.com have been looking at the most popular travel destinations worldwide since 1996 with some interesting trends. You can read more here. And whether you have a taste for visiting the Eiffel Tower, seeing works of art at The Louvre or enjoying skiing in the French Alps, it appears the world has a continuing love affair with France.

The data, which compared countries for international visitor numbers every year until 2019, showed France was the most popular destination for all but five years in that 24-year period. America USA briefly led the table, overtaking France from 1996-97 and 2013-16. But what does the future hold A spokesperson for StressFreeCarRental.com said 2022 is a critical year for the tourism industry with international travel bans relaxing in many countries with the easing of the covid pandemic.

Millions of people will be travelling abroad for a holiday this summer for the first time in two or three years and it will be fascinating to see which countries continue to attract the most tourists. Will France still be the most popular destination by the end of 2022, or will another country hold more appeal with so many people keen to travel abroad and explore A picture containing text, valley, or canyon description automatically generated a picture containing sky, outdoor, building, people description automatically generated France has been ever-present in the top two travel destinations since 1996, Turkey is now established in the top ten.

Both America and France led the rest by some distance for the majority of the years between 1996 and 2019, except for the last couple of years with Spain taking second place ahead of America in 2018 and 2019. Visitor figures for both America and France have regularly topped 70m – in some years doubling the total that the third most popular nation has welcomed. In the two years following the Twin Towers attacks, visitor numbers to America dropped markedly to around 60m, while France recorded around 74m – the biggest gap between the two countries during the research period.

Yet in 2018, America, then back in the top spot, recorded an incredible 96m visitors in one year – the most recorded by any one country in the records. In 2019, the top three saw France record 90m international visitors, followed by Spain, newly into second place with 83m visitors and America third with 79m visitors. There are some other interesting trends that have seen the top six most popular destinations largely unchanged through the last two and a half decades.

Italy, UK and China have joined France, America and Spain as the most sought-after destinations. In 2003, Russia briefly climbed above the UK into sixth place but has largely fallen out of the top ten rankings in the last decade.

The UK itself slipped to ninth in the top ten charts by 2019.

Written by: Matthew Thomas