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:
- Figures are not provided to them from every country.
- 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.
- 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.
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