The Hanoitimes - Vietnam ranks seventh in the list of the world’s top 20 fastest growing travel destinations, which was recently announced by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The UNWTO’s list was based on the assessment of upsurges in tourist arrivals. Accordingly, Vietnam saw a 24.6% surge in the number of foreign visitors in 2016 compared to the previous year.
Vietnam has been named as one of the world’s top tourist destinations several times in the past, such as the top 10 cheapest countries to travel in 2016 (voted by The Richest, the US), the top ideal countries for backpacking tourism in 2016 (by Rough Guides, the UK), and the top eco-friendly tourist destinations (by travel experts from Boundless Journeys and Adventure Life).
Among Asian countries present on the list, Vietnam (seventh place) ranks third, and South Korea (fourth place, 30.3 per cent). With South Korea, a whopping 17.2 million people visited South Korea in 2016 – up from just 13.2m in 2015 (that's a rise of 30.3 per cent). Only Sierra Leone, Nepal (which suffered a big drop in visitors after the 2015 earthquake), and Iceland have seen sharper increases.
The country's greatest attractions are its chaotic and vibrant capital, Seoul, and the island of Jeju. Unesco-listed, and billed as South Korea's answer to Hawaii, it's pure Instagram gold, and home to dramatic volcanic landscapes, underground caves, hiking trails and scenic beaches.
Sierra Leone, a West African nation, topped the list with a 310% increase in overseas arrivals in 2016 (74,400 arrivals) compared to 2015 (24,000 arrivals), which was thanks to the country being declared Ebola-free in November 2015.
The UNWTO also published a list of ten nations that saw sharp declines in last year’s foreign arrivals, including Egypt, Afghanistan, Turkey, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Palau, Haiti, Belgium, Aruba and Laos.
In Turkey, given that it shares a border with Syria, and that terrorist attacks have happened with worrying regularity in its major cities, it is no surprise that Turkey has suffered a big drop in visitors. Almost 40 million went in 2015 – that fell by 28.5 per cent to an estimated 28.2 million last year.
For similar reasons, Egypt has suffered in recent years. While 14.1 million travellers went there in 2010, that fell to 9.1 million in 2015, and, while UNWTO doesn't have figures for all of 2016, is expected to drop a further 42.1 per cent to around 5.35 million for 2016.
The Brussels attacks of March 2016 hit Belgium hard, with tourist arrivals falling 13.2 per cent. That means total numbers for last year will be around 7.3 million - down from 8.1 million.