Me in the world’s least visited country, Yemen. Photo: Lexie Alford.

UNWTO, the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations keeps an overview of tourism numbers for most countries. But it lacks numbers for the least-visited ones for at least three reasons:

  1. Figures are not provided to them from every country.
  2. Some countries overstate the number of tourists, presumably as officials feel embarrassed by their low numbers or because they believe that hiking their own numbers will in fact increase tourism.
  3. UNWTO counts a number of French, British, American, Dutch and Chinese islands and territories as separate countries.

That means that UNWTOs list is unsuitable in determining which countries are the least-visited ones. Which is why I decided to revisit all contries that may be among the 20 least-visited countries in thw world. I wanted to research the numbers on my own, and I have interviewed several dozens of officials, immigration officers, hoteliers, transport workers and others that may shed light on the missing or inaccurate numbers.

Please find info on the references I have used for the countries that lacked UNWTO numbers, or in those cases where I discovered the UNWTO numbers to be inaccurate, as shown below in alphabetical order. This applies to 13 of the 20 least-visited countries in the world.

Afghanistan: 13,400 tourists per year. Source: New York Times 2012, adjusted according to UNWTO tourism receipts 2016 (-10.7%). Confirmed through my own interviews with officials in the Ministry of Tourism in Kabul, April 2018.

Central African Republic: 1,000 tourists per year. Source: My own interviews with officials in the Ministry of Tourism in Bangui, January 2018.

Comores: 25,000 tourists per year. Source: World Travel and Tourism Council.

Equatorial Guinea: 2,400 tourists per year. Source: My own interviews with officials in the Ministry of Tourism in Malabo, January 2018. They did not have an exact figure, but stipulated that around 200 tourists visit every month.

Eritrea: 2,000 tourists per year. Source: My own interviews with officials in the Ministry of Tourism on the outskirts of Asmara, November, 2017. They told me that “just above 2,000 tourists” visit per year, a bit off the 142,000 that the country claim through their UNWTO numbers.

Kiribati: 3,600 tourists per year. Source: My own interviews with The Kiribati National Tourism Office (KNTO) in South Tarawa, March, 2018.

Libya: 200 tourists per year. Source: My own interviews with employees at Ministry of Tourism and the travel agency that organizes trips to the country. April, 2018.

Nauru: 130 tourists per year. Source: Three interviews with immigration officials at the Nauru Airport. They told me that they get 11 tourists per month.

Somalia: 12,200 tourists per year. Source: My own interviews with the tour operators that organize trips to Mogadishu, as well as the diplomatic missions of Somaliland. Almost all tourists go to Somaliland, only around 200 a year visit Mogadishu.

South Sudan: 2,200 tourists per year. Source: My own interviews with several officials at the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, in Juba, South Sudan, Aug-Sept. They informed me that they had 319,060 foreign visitors in 2016 and that 0.7 % of them were tourists.

Turkmenistan: 7,000 tourists per year. Based on 8,700 tourists as listed in Statistical Yearbook of Turkmenistan, 2012, and a reduction of around 20 % as confirmed through interviews with Turkmen tour operators.

Tuvalu: 800 tourists per year. Information provided to me in two interviews with Statistical Bureau of Tuvalu, February 2018.

Yemen: 60 tourists per year. Source: Interview with Ministry of Immigration in Aden, April 2018.

Want to read the book?

The book about the world’s 20 least visited countries is due to be published this winter. The working title is The World’s 20 Least Visited CountriesPlease sign up to receive an email when the book is available to buy.

You can follow the Gunnar Garfors on InstagramTwitter or Facebook. The 43 year old Norwegian is still travelling extensively and shares photos and travel tips from all over the world.