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These are the world's most popular tourist destinations over the past 20 years

Will the return to travel look the same this year?🥐
Canadian travellers who visit France, the United States, Spain, Turkey, and China are more likely to buy travel insurance in 2022 due to the pandemic.

Have you booked an overseas vacation this year?

According to a recent survey, the majority of Canadians plan to travel again now that countries have started welcoming back tourists after a two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus. But these folks are taking longer to nail down their plans and those that have are favouring North America over Europe

While people are eager to travel again, they are also apprehensive about their travel plans. Since lockdowns could be re-imposed at any time, about 60 per cent of Canadians said they'll purchase a travel insurance policy for an upcoming trip.

Another study also found that the majority of locals (51.3%) feel less inclined to travel abroad due to the pandemic

When asked where respondents were most eager to visit this year, most Canadians, perhaps unsurprisingly, said they were excited to visit the United States. Following that, the second-highest number of people wanted to visit Italy.

What will be the hottest destinations around the globe in 2022?

Prior to the pandemic, the most popular travel destination was France, with a staggering 90,645,444 visitors in 2019, according to survey data shared by an online car rental company. 

The study compared countries for their international visitor numbers every year from 1996 until 2019 and found that 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," explain the report authors, who add that figures for the two countries have regularly topped 70 million. In some years, these nations doubled the total of the third most-visited country. 

After 9/11, however, tourism to America dropped significantly to around 60 million, "while France recorded around 74 [million] - the biggest gap between the two countries during the research period.

Spain overtook the U.S. in 2019, with an impressive 83,624,795 visitors. The U.S. and China weren't far behind, however, with 79,850,736 and 79,757,366 tourists, respectively. 

The fifth most-visited country in 2019, Italy, saw substantially fewer visitors, with 63 million. 

Travel to Canada and beyond: Trends through the years

Report authors note that the U.S. saw the highest number of visitors for any country in 2018, with a jaw-dropping 96 million tourists in a single year. 

"Canada, Poland, Germany and Mexico have all enjoyed several years making up the top ten top travel destinations, while in more recent years, Turkey has also been very popular, climbing to sixth place in 2009," according to the study.

Overall, tourism saw a steady increase in the decades leading up to 2019. There were 299 million people travelling to the top 10 destinations in 1996 and figures increased to 588 million by 2019.

But what does the future hold?

2022 is shaping up to be a critical year for the tourism industry, as more countries end COVID-related restrictions and more people feel safe travelling again. 

Here's a look at popular countries for tourists to visit in 1996 and 2019: