Ever heard of Everland or Lotte World? Most Americans have never planned a trip to these South Korean theme parks, yet they rank among the world’s 50 most-visited tourist attractions — beating out the Great Pyramids (4 million), the Taj Mahal (3 million), and Stonehenge (1 million). And there are more surprises.
Where we choose to spend our vacation time says a lot about what we value, and despite — or perhaps because of — the lingering global economic crisis, we are traveling more than ever. International tourist arrivals were up 6.6 percent in 2010, according to the World Tourism Organization. China ousted Spain as the third most-visited country with 55.7 million foreign arrivals, while France and the U.S. held tight to their first and second place rankings.
Like it or not, theme parks are just as appealing in these countries as they are in South Korea. Disneyland Paris drew the same number of visitors (10.5 million) as Sacré-Coeur, and two of the world’s 10 most-visited tourist attractions are Disney parks. America also dominates our list. Some credit goes to the weak U.S. dollar, which drew 8.7 percent more foreign tourists in 2010 than the previous year — and likely persuaded many Americans to explore within our vast borders.
China and India are even bigger than the U.S., but their lack of dependable visitor statistics and limited domestic tourism markets help account for their few attractions on our list. Expect to see more of them over time; already attendance at Beijing’s Forbidden City has surged from 7 million visitors in 2007 to 12.83 million visitors in 2010.
More from Travel + Leisure