What’s with the British and our love of the underdog? Rooting for the little guy is part of our national psyche, so when when we had a chance to dig into the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) database, we were more interested in the losers rather than the winners.
The losers being countries which had recorded drops in their visitor numbers rather than increases.
For the record, the winners were Cambodia and its two close neighbours, Laos and Myanmar which each recorded spectacular increases in overseas arrivals.
In Cambodia’s case this represented a staggering 32,941 per cent increase from 1990 when just 17,000 travellers visited the country (although admittedly it was then still reeling from the nightmarish rule of the Khmer Rouge) to 2016 – the most recent year for which the UNWTO has compiled data – when it welcomed 5.01 million overseas arrivals; a number that is predicted to climb further to 5.6 million for last year.
But that’s enough attention paid to the top dogs. How about the also rans?
Step forward Hungary which has somehow managed to lose over 5 million visitors in just under thirty years, down from 20.5 million in 1990 (when it was the 5th most visited country) to 15.5 million today where it now languishes in the 23rd spot.
Given the strength of its currency then Switzerland, another big loser, probably isn’t too fussed about dropping from 11th to 35th place but Romania, plummeting down from 24th in 1990 to 73rd place today is probably feeling the pinch more.
More recent declines have been put down to war, terrorism and civil unrest. So Ukraine, Tunisia and Egypt have all seen visitor numbers fall since 2010 and while Syria welcomed 8.55 million tourists in 2010, more recent estimates suggest this has fallen to around 90,000 (although the real figure is surely even lower).
Even more recently the US has seen arrivals fall by around 3.6 million since 2015. That decline has been put down to ‘White House policy’ and the, er, ‘Trump slump’.