It probably comes as no surprise that countries such as France, Spain, and the United States have historically topped the list when it comes to annual tourism numbers. But there are plenty of lesser-known nations around the world that are growing more attractive to visitors with each passing year. From island paradises to former Yugoslav territories, these burgeoning travel destinations are on the rise at a rapid pace — and they’re only going to get more popular. Here are 10 countries that are poised to see significant increases in tourism in 2024.
North Macedonia is a relatively new country, having only achieved independence after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. Since then, this once off-the-radar Balkan state has blossomed into one of Europe’s most increasingly attractive tourist destinations. The numbers back it up: Online search volume for trips to North Macedonia grew by 2,835% between 2021 and 2023, while overnight visits increased by 29.3% from September 2022 to September 2023.
There are a multitude of reasons to visit North Macedonia, but perhaps none more compelling than the city of Ohrid. This former Greek colony dates to the second century BCE and once contained a staggering 365 churches within the city limits. While many of those structures have come and gone, several stunning historic sites remain, including the Church of St. John at Kaneo. This church sits atop steep cliffs with awe-inspiring views of the crystal-clear waters of Lake Ohrid below.
Fun fact: Tunisia isn’t just located in North Africa — the country actually contains the northernmost point on the continent. Tourism in Tunisia has skyrocketed since 2011, when the country’s autocratic government was replaced during the pro-democracy Jasmine Revolution. Post-pandemic, Tunisia’s tourism has only grown further: Total visitors have increased from 6.4 million in 2022 to an estimated 8.5 million people in 2023.
While in Tunisia, it’s well worth visiting the aforementioned northernmost point in Africa — Ras ben Sakka. Located on the shores of Cape Angela, this picturesque site features a monument that denotes its unique geographical location. Tunisia is also home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Amphitheatre of El Jem. This Roman ruin is the largest remaining colosseum in North Africa; at one time, it could hold as many as 35,000 spectators.
Vanuatu achieved independence in 1980, though the archipelago of 83 islands in the South Pacific Ocean was inhabited by the Melanesian peoples for centuries before then. This beachy paradise has seen a staggering 65% increase in tourism since 2019, including a 42% jump between 2022 and 2023 alone. Part of the reason for these increased tourist numbers are the growing number of flights to Vanuatu, with nonstop service now available to destinations such as Auckland, Brisbane, and Melbourne.
With pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs, Vanuatu remains a relatively undeveloped destination. Some of the most notable natural sites include active volcanoes such as Mount Yasur and waterfalls such as the Mele Cascades. In 2003, Vanuatu opened the world’s first underwater post office, where travelers can leave letters that are picked up by scuba diving postal workers.
The Kingdom of Bhutan maintains strict tourism rules in an effort to preserve its cultural heritage. This includes a conservative dress code, rigid visa regulation, and a daily fee of $200 USD (temporarily cut to $100 per day through 2027) to offset carbon generated by visitors. Surprisingly, those regulations haven’t deterred many visitors — since first opening to tourists in 1974 and initially receiving just 300 visitors, this remote Himalayan escape now attracts hundreds of thousands of adventurers annually, a number that keeps rising.
Bhutan is home to one of the most strenuous hiking trails in the world: the Snowman Trek. Only 500 hikers have completed this difficult excursion, less than the total number of people who have summited Mount Everest. Those willing to take on the challenge should know that it takes up to a month to complete the 216-mile-long journey, with altitudes ranging anywhere between 14,000 and 18,000 feet above sea level.
Forming the connection between Central and South America, Colombia is another burgeoning tourist destination. More than 1.4 million tourists entered the country in the first quarter of 2023, a 49% increase over the previous year. That forecast is expected to only grow — with an 84.6% expected increase in revenue by the time that tourist levels hit their estimated peak in 2028.
While Colombia boasts plenty of appeal, from the high-altitude capital of Bogotá to the Caribbean beaches and historic walled city of Cartagena, a lesser-known secret is San Andrés. This remote island — located closer to Nicaragua than the Colombian mainland — is heralded for its fantastic snorkeling and beaches, which are best experienced between December and April during the dry season. While visiting San Andrés may cost more than traveling to mainland Colombia, it can be worth it to escape the crowds.
You might not be able to point out Slovenia on a map, but booking a flight there is still plenty easy. This tiny nation bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia has a small coastline along the northern Adriatic Sea and is considered by many to be one of the most scenic countries in all of Europe. The country saw a 38.5% increase in tourism between 2021 to 2022, and an additional 18.7% the following year. And as more people learn about this European gem, those numbers are expected to rise.
Slovenia is a wine lover’s paradise, with an estimated 28,400 wineries — that’s one vineyard for every 70 Slovenians. The capital of Ljubljana is a particularly attractive city break because there are restrictions on car traffic in the city center of Ljubljana, making it a perfect place to walk and bike the historic cobblestone streets.
Search volume for vacations to Senegal grew 535% between 2021 and 2023, as more and more people consider visiting this West African nation. Prior to the pandemic, tourism made up just 9% of Senegal’s total GDP. But in 2016, tourism officials set a goal of welcoming 1.5 million visitors that year, and they are expected to double the number to 3 million tourists by 2023.
Senegal is home to the westernmost point in continental Africa: Pointe des Almadies. There are also seven Senegalese World Heritage Sites that are worth seeing, including Saint-Louis. This former capital of French West Africa contains some of the most striking French colonial architecture in Senegal, with many colorful houses lining the Senegal River. Saint-Louis also hosts a celebrated jazz festival between April and May each year.
Albania, which borders North Macedonia to the west, saw its online search trends increase by 1,272% over the last three years, as tourism continues to skyrocket. Albania has become a particularly attractive spot for Italian tourists, with a 50% increase on visits from Italian nationals alone. All told, the country has seen a 25% increase in recent visits year over year.
Albania’s capital city of Tirana is a particularly stunning destination, and what better way to start your visit than with a cable car ride up to the top of scenic Mount Dajti? It’s also worth checking out Bunk Art, a former military base that’s since been converted into an art museum. Lastly, consider visiting the town of Durrës, which has been inhabited since the seventh century BCE and offers a mix of glistening beaches and fascinating ancient archeological sites.
While many people visit nearby India, considerably fewer tourists travel to this teardrop-shaped nation just off India’s southeastern coast. That may be changing. In recent years, Sri Lanka’s tourism numbers surpassed 110,000 annual visitors. Foreign tourist arrivals increased a whopping 159.8% between October 2022 and October 2023.
Any visitor to Sri Lanka should try the locally grown Ceylon cinnamon on Ganduwa Island, which is prized worldwide for its light and sweetest flavor profile. Sri Lanka is also known for its diverse ecology — for example, in Bundala National Park, more than 200 species of birds thrive. It’s also worth taking a day trip to Sigiriya, a towering 590-foot rock formation featuring ancient fortifications from the fifth century built on top.
The Dominican Republic is certainly no longer a secret, but this Caribbean paradise on the island of Hispaniola continues to shatter tourism records. More than 600,000 people visited in the month of October 2023 alone, thanks to its easy accessibility from dozens of cities in North America. It’s estimated that the Dominican Republic will welcome upwards of 10 million visitors throughout 2023, with even more to come in 2024.
Given its location in the heart of the Caribbean, it should come as no surprise that the Dominican Republic is known for its stunning beaches. But the country also has a rich history, especially at the Colonial City of Santo Domingo. This capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded back in 1498, and pioneered the grid city layout that many other cities have since adopted. There are also several 16th-century churches and fortresses you can visit in Santo Domingo.